In this month’s column, Rep. Jake Wheatley shares his point of view on the Pennsylvania state budget.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There are thousands of families struggling to find their financial footing because of this raging pandemic that has closed or limited their abilities to feed themselves and their families. Thousands of Pennsylvania students don’t have the ability to access school instruction because of limited access to technology and reliable internet service. Hundreds of small businesses and entertainment venues are still waiting for some financial relief. The state does have $1.3 billion in federal dollars available to offer some financial relief. Instead, majority legislators are holding on to that money to use it toward their sham of a budget.  

It’s yet another case of those in the state Capitol who fail to understand or care about what’s best for our residents and only think of their own self-interest. It’s clear we have extremely difficult challenges before us, and all options should be on the table. What happened to the belief that during times of difficulty, we work together to come up with ideas and solutions and collaborate? Instead, there’s a push toward actions that are short-sighted and short-term. That is what will happen with this short-sighted and irresponsible budget.

Some may say, ‘What can we do in this current climate when there is no will to push for new revenue sources to help residents and businesses that are hurting financially?’ I say we start by assessing those who continue to make money even while most others in our state continue to struggle. We don’t have to raise taxes on working families, but we should take a serious look at creating a fair tax system and tax the companies and individuals who are making money on money while many have lost money because they couldn’t work or earn income.

What about closing some of our corporate tax loopholes, or considering revenue from potential new industries like adult-use cannabis to resolve the state’s $3 billion deficit? There have been many ideas, proposals, and solutions shared to help mitigate this budget challenge, but none of these are being considered in any real way. It’s because those in power only want what they want, and far too often, the Democrats are more than willing to accommodate them for fear of lost crumbs from the all-powerful majority’s table. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of this merry-go-round process.  

When will we demand a real budget that resolves, or at least attempts to resolve, our long-term state fiscal challenges? The threat of cuts are and will always be a part of this process. The fear of having to make difficult decisions around revenue generation, changes in spending priorities, or adding taxes to places and industries to create fair sharing of responsibilities are all necessary for us to consider. To ultimately decide to do nothing and take the road of least resistance at times like these is a total failure of leadership and can’t be allowed to continue. The people deserve better and we should do better.

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