Yesterday, the Legislature approved the final portion of the balanced budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. I am thankful that both sides were able to come together and avoid a repeat of last year’s prolonged budget impasse that negatively impacted both schools and nonprofit service providers that rely on stable state funding.
Two weeks ago, I voted for the bipartisan spending compromise bill that boosted Pre-K-to-12 state funding for education to unprecedented levels, fully funded core functions of state government, and devoted vital resources to addressing the ever-increasing opioid addiction epidemic in Pennsylvania. We were able to negotiate with the Governor and arrive at a final spending figure nearly $2 billion less than what he had originally requested in February.
From the beginning, I made it clear that I would not support broad-based increases to the personal income and sales tax. I can gladly report that the revenue-raising portion of this budget package includes neither.
While I supported the bipartisan spending compromise that was approved two weeks ago, the revenue package that was considered yesterday is significantly different from the original package that was under consideration in late June. I believe there are better ways to raise revenue; for example, legalizing and regulating online gaming and fantasy sports—a proposal that my constituents overwhelmingly support—was discussed as an option but did not make it into the final package. Additionally, I would have liked to see public pension reform as a component of this budget package, but that was also removed from the final agreement. Consequently, I voted against the Tax Code.
In the end, the entire budget package was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Moving forward, it is more important than ever that we address our fastest-growing cost-drivers, such as public employee pension reform and human services spending, to ensure that future budgets are responsible, sustainable, and not balanced on the backs of Pennsylvania taxpayers.