While many people spent the past two days by the pool, at the beach, or enjoying the World Cup, baseball, Wimbledon, and the host of other sporting events taking place, Pennsylvania legislators spent the hot and muggy weekend in Harrisburg trying to work out a budget agreement amongst the four caucuses and Gov. Rendell.
Legislative leaders and Rendell spent most of Saturday in meetings trying iron out their differences. Rendell still wants a $29 billion general fund budget that includes a severance tax on natural gas and higher taxes on tobacco products. Legislative Democrats support a slightly reduced budget, but one that would still necessitate higher taxes. Senate Republicans continue to push for a $27.8 billion budget that would include no tax increases.
Each plan is reliant on $850 million in additional Medicaid money from the federal government, which last week appeared less certain of coming to fruition. Without the money, Rendell claims that as many as 20,000 government jobs will be cut. Even with the money, Rendell warns as many as 1,000 could be cut, which he also decries as a tragedy.
At the risk of sounding callous, cry me a river. What Rendell fails to mention is that Pennsylvania’s public sector has been detached from fiscal realities for years and the state has continued to add employees to the public payroll at a time when the economic downturn has precipitated substantial job losses in the private sector. According to Commonwealth Foundation analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, between 2000 and 2009 Pennsylvania’s private sector shrunk by 113,600 jobs while the public sector grew by 40,200 bureaucrats, whose salaries, mind you, are dependent on the Keystone State’s shrinking private sector.
The deadline to pass a budget is this Wednesday, although that is not exactly a firm deadline as PA lawmakers have failed to meet it for the last seven years. ATR urges Pennsylvania residents to contact their representatives in Harrisburg today and urge them to reject the job-killing tax increases being pushed by Rendell and legislative Democrats. To do so, simply click HERE.