HARRISBURG (June 30, 2017) – State Senator Andy Dinniman decried the $32 billion spending plan passed by the Pennsylvania Senate today as a “borrow-and-spend” plan that fails to address the real reasons behind Pennsylvania’s ballooning deficit.
The plan passed by a vote of 43-7. The bill will now go to the House for consideration.
“The last week of June is always like ‘Groundhog Day’ in Harrisburg because year after year it’s the same story. The legislature either fails to meet its constitutional obligation to pass a budget by July 1 or passes a spending plan at the eleventh hour and then delays any decisions on revenue for weeks or months at a time,” Dinniman said. “This year, we’ve again passed a spending plan without reaching a consensus on how to pay for it. That’s what happened last year and it was a recipe for disaster. Even Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t need to look for his shadow to understand this cold, hard reality.”
Dinniman pointed out that last year lawmakers approved a 2016-17 spending package and planned to fill revenue holes with an expansion of gambling. However, that gambling expansion never materialized and the Commonwealth will likely end up borrowing funds to fill the $1.5 million gap in last year’s budget (and that comes on top of finding a way to fill the $800 million gap in this year’s budget).
“That’s one of the reasons we ended up with a more than $1 billion deficit this year and guess what? Now, we are about to do it again,” Dinniman said. “Both parties used to accuse each other of ‘tax and spend.’ What we have now is a bipartisan borrow-and-spend agenda that is not only completely unsustainable, it’s downright disingenuous to our constituents and it’s detrimental to the Commonwealth. Nobody wants to raise taxes or make cuts, but some day soon, we all are going to have to pay with interest when we do neither and continue to try to bail ourselves out through borrowing.”
Dinniman has again introduced Senate Bill 830, which calls for enacting real consequences when a complete state budget – including appropriations bills and sufficient revenue to fund them – is not passed by July 1. That includes requiring the legislature to remain in continuous session, meeting every day without leave, without pay, without reimbursements, and without per diems. The same goes for the governor, his senior staff, and cabinet members.
“It’s very simple: you can’t decide what you’re going to spend before you know how much you have to spend. Families and businesses across Pennsylvania know that. They also know that they’ll face real consequences if they don’t balance their checkbooks or pay their bills on time. It’s high time we had some real consequences at the state level,” Dinniman said. “Not cutting where we can, not making the difficult decisions that lawmakers are elected to make, and not even approaching the entire process in a legitimate way is no way to run Pennsylvania, unless we plan on running it into the ground.”
Dinniman also added that recent budget impasses have shown that entering a fiscal year without a complete budget have ongoing and widespread impacts.
“Partial, incomplete, late, or stop-gap budgets are simply unacceptable. A spending package without a revenue plan does not even qualify as a ‘budget’ at all. And when that happens, it’s the legislature, the governor and the cabinet – not the people – who should face the consequences of not fulfilling their constitutional obligation,” he said. “