Latest State Budget is Shortsighted
This was a difficult budget year, but it appears that the administration didn’t learn from the mistakes that got us here. With all of the convoluted math and rosy projections needed to make this budget balance, it’s not unreasonable that we could be more than a billion dollars in the hole by Christmas.
Even with the overly optimistic calculations, this budget again shortchanges schools and passes difficult funding problems down the line to local government and school districts. Students, teachers and local school administrators will be forced to deal with the aftermath.
It’s obvious that this budget was designed to get something done on time regardless of whether it is sustainable for six months, much less an entire year.
This is how Capitolwire, a Harrsiburg subscription news service, described how the GOP managed to “find” $224 million to balance the budget.
“They rationalized that decision by using the Independent Fiscal Office’s May estimates – not the June ones – for both fiscal years, and then added the state’s June collections – which were $61 million higher than expected – to the May estimate, which was a higher estimate for the entire 2013-14 fiscal year than the June estimate. They then extrapolated that forward into the 2014-15 fiscal year, estimating the state will do $163.3 million better than the IFO’s May estimate for the total revenues to be collected during the 2014-15 fiscal year."
The budget also cuts important funding from programs designed to attract employers and create new jobs. That’s shortsighted and does nothing to put Pennsylvania back on par with neighboring states in job creation and economic growth.
Sadly, partisanship is preventing an expansion of Medicaid that could not only put $400 million into the budget, but also provide health care to nearly a half-million Pennsylvanians, including thousands of veterans and their families. Party-line voting also shot down approval of funding for a program to help homeless veterans.
Even with modest growth, this shortsighted budget sets up a structural deficit that could top of $2.5 billion next year. Click on these links for more budget information:
Keys Bridge Dedication Scheduled for July 11
Please join us for the dedication of the “Lieutenant General William M. Keys Bridge,” Friday, July 11th at 1:00 pm. The bridge carries Route 88 (Front St.) over Ten Mile Creek connecting Jefferson Township, Greene County and East Bethlehem Township, Washington County.
The ceremony will be held on the Washington County side of the bridge with parking available at nearby Greene Cove Yacht Club.
The 384-foot, $10 million Route 88 bridge was completed two years ago, replacing an older steel truss bridge.
Born in Fredericktown, Lt. Gen. Keys graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and the National War College and served as a Company Commander in Vietnam. During Operation Desert Storm he was commanding general of more than 20,000 Marines and devised a famous “two-axis” attack that General Norman Schwarzkopf called “simply brilliant.”
He retired from the Marine Corps in 1994, after 34 years of service.
Senate Passes Death Benefits Bill
Just a few days after it came out of committee, the Senate unanimously passed my bill to allow families eligible for law enforcement officer death benefits more time to settle their estates.
With everything else that’s going on in the Capitol right now, I’m grateful to my colleagues for keeping this bill moving. Given the increasingly complex legal system, it makes sense to give grieving families more time.
Senate Bill 1266 amends the Emergency and Law Enforcement Death Benefits Act to extend the allotted amount of time for claiming death benefits for emergency and law enforcement members killed the line of duty from 90 days to 3 years.
The bill also applies to ambulance service or rescue squad members, firefighters, certified hazardous material response team members, and National Guard members.
The bill was prompted by the death of a local police officer whose family struggled to meet the 90-day deadline and it mimics federal law on the issue of death benefits.