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District Office
282 West King St., 1st Floor
Abbottstown, PA 17301
(717) 259-7805
Toll-Free: 1-877-480-9525
Hours: M-F 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Satellite Offices
South Middleton Township Building
520 Park Drive
Boiling Springs, PA 17007
Tuesday, Wednesday, 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month
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Phone: (717) 612-0807 

North Newton Township Building
528 Oakville Road
Shippensburg, PA 17257
Second and fourth Thursday of every month, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Phone: (717) 612-0807
Toll free: 1-877-480-9525

Capitol Office
427 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202193
Harrisburg PA 17120-2193
Phone (717) 783-8875
Fax (717) 787-7588
The Good and Bad of Our State Budget
6/27/2018
Gov. Tom Wolf signed the 2018-19 state budget into law last Friday night following House and Senate passage earlier in the week. There is plenty to like in what was negotiated and passed, but I chose to oppose the plan and would like to explain why.

First, the positives. The budget was passed on time and signed by the governor. That is significant, considering the embarrassment of the last three years when he chose to let it become law rather than sign it. Spending is increased somewhere around the rate of inflation. I say that because different people use different means to calculate that figure. My Common Sense Caucus colleagues and I feel we are spending a bit too much. Our math has inflation at less than 1 percent. Two weeks ago, we were told the increase would be 2.25 percent. We fought to get the spending number reduced and settled at 1.7 percent.

There are no new taxes, fees or tax increases in this budget. For the first time since 2006, we are putting money (approximately $25 million) into the Rainy Day Fund, something that seemed unfathomable a few years ago when we were staring at a more than $2 billion deficit. Chalk it up to House Republicans fending off Gov. Wolf’s repeated attempts to raise taxes, as well as our holding the line on excessive spending.

The governor admitted in early June that a natural gas severance tax was not necessary. He often framed it as being needed to support education, yet we managed to increase PreK-12 funding to a record $12.3 billion. Also increased was support for Pre-K Counts, Head Start, special education and higher education.

Three new line items are worthy of mention. Pennsylvania has been labeled “ground zero” for Lyme disease. More than $2 million is being targeted to deal with the spread of this terrible disease. The budget also includes $3 million to address the spotted lanternfly, which has the potential to impact apple, grape and other fruit crops, as well as hops and the logging industry. This money will be used for early detection and protection of Pennsylvania businesses and agriculture.

The budget also provides an increase of $4 million for our emergency medical service (EMS) agencies. Chicken barbecues aren’t enough to support the valuable service these men and women provide. With ambulance and Medicare reimbursement rates failing to keep pace with expenses, this money is hopefully the beginning of the realization that we cannot do without EMS.

So, what’s not to like? It’s simple – this budget is shortsighted. Exercising responsible fiscal policy means not only planning for the year to come but for the YEARS to come. The 2018-19 budget fully funds the contributions for SERS (the State Employees Retirement System) and PSERS (the Public School Employees’ Retirement System). Increases in annual payments have been significantly reduced by pension reform; however, we are still looking at a more than $64 billion unfunded pension liability that will take years to eliminate.

All the borrowing we’ve done starts to come due in the 2019-20 fiscal year. The total annual bill for accessing both the tobacco settlement and school construction reimbursement (PlanCon) totals more than $250 million. Both Medicaid and unemployment costs will increase next year.
We also continue to remain reliant on one-time revenue sources. That well will inevitably run dry. The same is true for gambling. While there was no expansion of gaming this past fiscal year, our continued dependence on games of chance is shaky because the revenue numbers rarely match projections.

I also have concerns about the economy. The impact President Donald Trump has had on it is difficult for even his detractors to deny. No one knows if he will be elected to a second term, but a change in administration would, I feel, mean a different economic mentality.

I am disappointed with the total disregard for the millions of dollars the Common Sense Caucus discovered last year in special fund reserve accounts, some of which laid dormant for years. As your tax dollars sit idle, other money is put to work and some of that should be called into question. The Allentown School District is receiving an extra $10 million so it can make budget without cutting programs or teachers. What school district wouldn’t like that sweet deal?

I’ve listed more positives than negatives, but the scales balance when you consider the magnitude of my reasons for opposing the 2018-19 spending plan. Our economy is turning the corner but could be doing better. We need regulatory and tax reform to truly unlock our potential. Even then, Pennsylvania will be hard pressed to atone for our penchant for “kicking the can down the road.” One day, the bill will come due. I hope we will be able to pay the tab.

Representative Will Tallman
193rd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Scott Little
717.260.6137
slittle@pahousegop.com
RepWillTallman.com / Facebook.com/RepTallman


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