In advance of the governor’s planned mid-year budget briefing, state Senate Democrats Tuesday announced details of a plan to generate more than $1 billion in budget savings and revenues they say can be used to make key investments, avoid deep cuts or tax increases in dealing with a projected $839 million budget deficit.
“Senate Democrats have identified ample revenues to not only deal with the significant budget deficit that has developed under Gov. Tom Corbett’s watch, but we’ve also found resources to fund key job creation initiatives, education investments and safety net repairs that are needed as a result of short-sighted administration policies,” Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), the Senate Democratic leader said.
In a November budget status report, the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) reported that Pennsylvania was facing a structural deficit of $839 million.
Sen. Costa detailed the Senate Democratic $1.091 billion savings and revenue plan. The plan includes the following features and fiscal benefits:
— Expanded Medicaid — $400 million;
— Escheat Reform — $150 million;
— Wine and Spirits Modernization — $125 million;
— Charter School Reform — $85.5 million;
— Capital Stock and Franchise tax phase-out freeze — $75 million;
— Multi-state claims processing for SSP/SSI – $75 million;
— Enhanced tax collection — $55 million;
— Medicaid Managed Care — $50 million;
— Tobacco products tax — $36 million;
— Vendor discount elimination — $40 million.
Senate Democratic Whip Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia) said Pennsylvanians should not accept the recurring rhetoric from the Corbett administration that they have to cut and slash each and every year due to a revenue shortfall.
“Every year we have heard the same tune from the governor that his hands are tied because revenues are soft and the job market is flat,” Sen. Williams said. “For the last three years, Senate Democrats have put forth plans outlining how we can generate budget savings and additional revenues to make key investments without severe cuts.
“The song the governor keeps singing about his budget woes is stale and taxpayers are tired of it. The fact is we need a new more aggressive approach,” he said.
Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia) said the reason Pennsylvania keeps having budget deficits and scrambling for money each year is the Corbett administration does not have a comprehensive and coherent job creation strategy.
“Under the governor’s leadership, we’ve gone from eighth in job creation to near last among all states, dead last among all our neighboring states and last among all big states,” Sen. Hughes said. “We have a Corbett jobs deficit of 166,000 on top of a Corbett budget deficit of $839 million.
“The reason we can’t move forward is that the Corbett corporate tax cuts of over $1 billion, combined with a lack of attention to the needs of everyday Pennsylvanians in job creation, education and safety net protections, weigh us down.”
Senate Democrats also continued to lament the $1 billion in cuts in education funding authored by the Corbett administration several years ago. The Democrats said this policy has been counterproductive and costly to the average taxpayers because the state simply shifted the burden.
“We can devise a better approach to budgeting and revenue generation that will not result in our local taxpayers paying more in property taxes and children losing opportunities in school,” Sen. Costa said. “The Senate Democratic plan provides a path that is responsible and deals with the Corbett budget deficit.”In addition to the budget and savings plan, Senate Democrats said they would soon announce their budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.