May 24, 2016

Taxpayers’ Caucus Report Identifies $3 Billion In Savings, Revenue For Budget

Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) and Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) Tuesday released a report from the bicameral Taxpayers’ Caucus, aimed at finding savings and efficiencies in state government.  
The report details over $3 billion in potential savings to taxpayers—$300 million more than Gov. Wolf proposed in tax hikes for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Among the savings and revenue ideas in the report are:
$150 million - Tax Amnesty Program
$75 million - Improved Collection of Delinquent Taxes
$12.4 million - Social Security Payment Collection
$319 million - Lapsed Funding
$153 million - Reforming State Healthcare Costs
$600 million - Pension Reform
$43,384 - Pennsylvania State Police (printing tickets on 1 sheet of paper)
$220 million - Liquor Privatization
$11.4 million - Uber PUC Fine:
$26.1 million - PennDOT Selling Driver Information
$167 million - Auditor General
$10.6 million - Debt Reduction
$200 million - Budget Reconciliation
$158.7 million - GO-TIME
$922 million - Department of Human Services
$3 million - Energy Savings
Total: $3,028,243,384
The Taxpayers’ Caucus is a bicameral working group of legislators that was founded as a result of the 2015-16 budget impasse, with the purpose of finding budget reforms which increase transparency and accountability, maximize government program efficiencies while reducing costs, and opportunities to eliminate or consolidate duplicative government programs.
Rep. Grove and Sen. Wagner said, “This report represents a new beginning for budget discussions in Pennsylvania; it is a change from the governor’s status quo tax-and-spend policies. The taxpayers of Pennsylvania demand that the General Assembly work for them, instead of Gov. Wolf’s public sector union partners and hand-picked special interests.
“Our report has identified $3 billion in potential savings to taxpayers. Gov. Wolf wants to raise taxes on the hard-working middle class. In fact, he is seeking $300 million more than we identified in the report.
“Harrisburg needs to change the way that it does business, and it needs to focus more on the needs of taxpayers. Our effort does that.”
No savings to the taxpayers is ever too small, and the report includes recommendations to address the 2016-17 cyclical budget deficit with department specific policy proposals and identifies savings ranging from $43,000 from the Pennsylvania State Police to nearly $1 billion from the Department of Human Services.
The policy proposals are derived from recommendations from Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Gov. Tom Wolf and legislators.
“Our recommendations come from a wide array of backgrounds, many of our suggestions have bipartisan support and come directly from the auditor general and governor.  The difference however, is when Gov. Wolf touts $150 million in savings from his “GO-TIME” initiative, he is turning that money back into other programs for higher spending.  
“We believe when savings have been identified, they should be savings for the taxpayers and should not be used for further spending elsewhere.  It is time for the General Assembly to show budgetary restraint.  
“As stewards of taxpayer dollars, we must end Harrisburg’s status quo of asking taxpayers to foot the bill for wasteful spending,” added Rep. Grove and Sen. Wagner.
The report also takes aim at addressing the Wolf Administration’s lack of spending transparency during the budget impasse.  
The Wolf administration questionably spent thousands of dollars during the budget impasse, with little or no rationale, including $140,000 spent on a “study of domesticated animals” while funds were being withheld from school districts.  
Reconciliation of the governor’s budget impasse spending could result in as much as $200 million in savings to taxpayers.
“Short-and long-term budget reforms are necessary to get our state back on track.  The House and Senate should move to a two-year budgeting process, which includes priority-based and performance-based budgeting procedures.  Legislative oversight is critical to ensure taxpayers are receiving the high quality services which they are paying for,” said Rep. Grove and Sen. Wagner.
A copy of the report is available online.
Gov. Wolf’s spokesperson Jeff Sheridan said in response to the report, “We encourage Sen. Wagner and Rep. Grove to work with us to come up with real solutions to our budget problems, just like many of their colleagues are doing, but today’s report is error-filled and presents savings that are either accounted for in the governor’s budget, have been proposed in the past, but have never received support, or are impossible to achieve.”
In particular, Sheridan notes the savings from GO-TIME and Medicaid expansion are included in the governor’s FY 2016-2017 budget proposal, the $400 million they claims exist in lapses does not exist, pension reform proposals do not suggest to save money in the coming fiscal year, and tax amnesty programs could cost the Commonwealth by giving tax evaders a better deal than if they had to pay the full amount plus interest and fines.
He also noted additional cost savings identified by the governor like merging the Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole, moving the eHealth Partnership to the Department of Human Services, and eliminating pension fund managers that he argues will save less than $600 million.
Sheridan also chided Sen. Wagner and Rep. Grove for remaining silent when the governor proposed cutting the Corporate Net Income Tax in half.
"As negotiations continue, the governor is committed to finding cost-savings, and he hopes to continue working with the legislature to reach final agreement on the 2016-17 budget, but these savings have to be real and achievable," Sheridan said.
York Lawmakers Say They Can Save State $3 Billion