“We still don’t know the true depth of the state’s financial crisis, but we recognize that the next few months, and even years, might be particularly challenging,” said State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro (D-Erie) this past Wednesday.
Bizzarro’s statement came after Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby released the state administration’s mid-year budget briefing, and what he outlined does not bode well for our financial future.
The briefing brought with it news of a massive structural deficit, totaling nearly $2 billion. Bizzarro released a statement later that day pointing to Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2014-2015 budget as a main source of the deficit. Specifically, Bizzarro pointed to $619 million in one-time savings, $572 in non-recurring revenues, and $332 million in funding shifts.
Bizzarro also noted that, during Corbett’s administration, job growth in Pennsylvania dropped to the lowest in the nation. Additionally, business taxes were reduced by $2.1 billion over four years while the Corbett administration maxed out its line of credit.
State Sen. Sean D. Wiley (D-Erie) also released a similar statement, saying, “I joined my colleagues in voting against this budget knowing it was filled with gimmicks and one-time revenue sources that would lead to this built-in shortfall.” Wiley mentioned that he and his team had spent the past few years trying to find new, more stable sources of revenue, such as the taxation of Marcellus shale extraction and an expansion to Medicaid.
However, these proposals were shot down by what he calls “bipartisan bickering.” Wiley considers it crucial, especially in this time of financial crisis, for both parties to come forward ready to compromise. He stated in his press release that “…this is no doubt going to be an extremely difficult year. It is critical… that the members of both the Senate and the House prepare to come to the table ready and willing to compromise.”
State Rep. Bizzarro shared a similar viewpoint, stating, “It’s going to take considerable time to help make up the massive budget deficit the state faces. That’s why it’s important that both parties come to the table to find new solutions to address this crisis.”
Looking to the future, Bizzarro added, “We can and must do better for future generations, who are depending on us to make Pennsylvania a place where they can prosper…we’ll only succeed if we keep the best interests of all Pennsylvanians in mind.”
No matter how you cut it, the financial forecast in Pennsylvania is a grim one. Sen. Wiley has expressed confidence in Governor-elect Tom Wolf and his team, but it will take more than simple confidence to cover a deficit of this size.
Chris Sexauer can be reached with any questions, comments, or concerns as csexauer@ErieReader.com.