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State Budget Discussions Must be Broadened to Include Revenue Options
Date:10/31/2008

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania policymakers must close a growing hole in the state budget without jeopardizing critical investments in education, transportation, health care, and other core services, said Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

A day after Gov. Ed Rendell announced $311 million in spending cuts in response to a first-quarter state revenue shortfall, Ward said that budget discussions must be broadened to include new revenue options. October's revenue numbers are scheduled to be released today.

If state revenue collections for the 2008-09 fiscal year decline by 2.4 percent over last year, as they did between 2000-01 and 2001-02 during the last recession, Pennsylvania could be looking at a deficit of $1.5 billion.

"Such a gap cannot be bridged by spending cuts alone," Ward said. "Public investments play a critical role in the health of the Pennsylvania economy, meaning state spending cuts will result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in state economic activity."

As policymakers work to balance the budget, policymakers should keep in mind the following key points:

-- The state budget deficit is a revenue problem that is being driven by a weak economy. Pennsylvania's level of spending and taxes as a share of personal income has remained stable at roughly 5.6 percent over the last 20 years.

-- Pennsylvania has a Rainy Day Fund of more than $740 million to help the state weather an economic storm like this one.

-- Federal policymakers are considering and should quickly adopt a "Main Street" economic stimulus plan that includes additional funding to the states for infrastructure projects and a temporary increase in the federal Medicaid contribution. Economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, generally agree that counter-cyclical public investments in infrastructure and other services are important when responding to a recession. And with ma
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
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