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Teplitz: ‘Fake’ Budget Built on Tricks, Ideology
On June 30, 2015
HARRISBURG, June 30, 2015 — State Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry) issued the following statement on the passage of the 2015-16 state budget bill and related legislation, which he voted against:
“The budget package approved by the majority today does not reflect a real spending plan. To the contrary, it’s a fake budget — one that is based on tricks and ideology, and one that we know the governor will veto.
“As I had warned last year, the use of one-time revenues, short-term funding shifts, and other budgetary gimmicks has generated a current structural deficit in excess of $1 billion. If we continue to kick this can down the road, the structural deficit will exceed $3 billion in 2016-17. I opposed the first four Corbett budgets, and was compelled today to vote against the fifth. I certainly hope there isn’t a sixth. To continue down this wrong path ignores the will of the voters, who overwhelmingly rejected this approach last November when they took the historic step of ousting an incumbent Pennsylvania governor.
“In particular, we must invest again in public education. Despite the majority’s claims, their budget adds only $8 million to the inadequate funding level passed last year.
“I didn’t spend the last year as a member of the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission developing a new school funding formula only to see the commonwealth fail to adequately fund that formula in this budget.
“The commission took a major first step two weeks ago by proposing a way to divide up the school funding pie more fairly. I believe strongly that we must also increase the size of the pie itself, as the governor had proposed. This will ensure that all schools have the appropriate resources needed to provide all students with access to a quality education.
“The majority also places ideology over math with regard to our state’s liquor and pension systems.
“If we needed to design a liquor system from scratch today, few people, including myself, would design the system we have now. However, the current system has been in existence for almost a century and the hundreds of millions of dollars that it now generates each year has become a critical component of the state budget. No privatization plan has been able to replace those funds for the long term. Additionally, liquor privatization increases the price of alcohol and jeopardizes thousands of family-sustaining jobs across the state.
“That’s why I support modernization rather than privatization. Modernization would address legitimate concerns about convenience, selection, and pricing, without hurting the state’s bottom line. In fact, investing in this revenue generating asset would bring in even more money to state coffers. This would be a win-win for both consumers and taxpayers.
“As for so-called ‘pension reform,’ the majority’s plan will not impact the 2015-16 budget, either for the state or for our local school districts, so it’s unclear why it is tied to the budget. This is yet another ideological argument based on a fabricated ‘crisis’ that simply does not exist when you look at relevant facts and data.
“The systems do face financial challenges that must be addressed in a responsible, fair, and legal way. Specifically, we must provide adequate retirement security for employees; provide relief to state and school district budgets; not violate the retirement contracts in effect with current employees and retirees; and not increase the systems’ unfunded liability. Unfortunately, the majority’s proposal fails every element of this test.
“Finally, this budget fails to address several other issues important to taxpayers, including providing relief from high property taxes and restoring cuts that had been made in job creation, social services, and other critical programs during the previous administration.
“Pennsylvania families, taxpayers, and other stakeholders deserve a real state budget that addresses their needs. What was passed today is not a thoughtful spending plan and does not move Pennsylvania forward. I urge my colleagues to move past the theatrics, work with our governor, and produce a budget we can all support.”