Since the Governor’s budget address in early March, there has been additional information provided on many of the components, including detail on the impact that some of these proposals will have on our communities. I have had numerous meetings with constituents and advocacy organizations about these proposals and have many more scheduled in the coming weeks. Our caucus has also focused in on our priorities as we move through this process.
There are several key restorations that we hope to make:
- Restore ALL education programs to state non-Recovery Act FY 2010-11 funding levels.
- Restore critical county programs including the Human Services Development Fund ($24 million).
- Save the HEMAP to maintain state aid for mortgage foreclosure assistance ($10 million).
- Maintain the Tobacco Settlement Fund to ensure that funds are used for healthcare.
- Fund/Restore the adultBasic program from Tobacco Settlement Fund surpluses.
- Increase inpatient hospital assessments to restore $87 million in cuts for hospitals.
- Maintain core DCED programs with a track record of success.
Of course, the question is how do we accomplish that? There are budget savings that will allow us to make smart investments in the programs and services that we believe are important to our residents: $535 million within the Department of Public Welfare, $75 million through the consolidation of the Department of Corrections and Probation & Parole, $90 million with procurement and human resources coordination with the Department of General Services and $50 million in aggressive efforts to get uncollected fees by the Department of Revenue.
Efforts to modernize our tax system, make taxes fair and maximize revenue would generate an additional $390 million. These plans include adopted combined reporting in the Commonwealth in order to reduce the Corporate Net Income tax to 7.5 percent.
A delay of the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax for one additional year could provide an additional $80 million. Maximizing Internet sales tax collections could total $75 million.
Un-coupling from the federal accelerated depreciation (a decision made by the Corbett administration) could retain $135 million and increasing revenue from the state stores could provide an additional $100 million.
Contrary to the statements in his budget address, Governor Corbett is not making this a “shared sacrifice.” His budget impacts the middle class and rewards big business. Rather than consider making changes that would require those big businesses to contribute, the Governor’s budget maintains a structure that requires small businesses and taxpayers to pay more while big business pays less. All of these revenue sources are without even talking about Marcellus Shale — a tax or fee that a recent poll showed that 62 percent of Pennsylvanians FAVOR!
Our Caucus also disagrees with the revenue surplus estimate made by Governor Corbett. In his budget proposal, he estimates that the year-end surplus will be $78 million. The current surplus is already above that, at $232 million. The Senate Democratic Caucus estimate is $300 million.
As I have said many times, we know that we must live within our means, but we can accomplish budget savings to provide more in this year’s budget without any service cuts and without new taxes. That will be our focus throughout this budget process. With that being said, we also know that in a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled General Assembly, we must have Republican votes to make this work.
If you share these beliefs and priorities, then reach out to the Republican members of the House and Senate so they, too, understand the importance of these services and programs and to urge their commitment to your priorities.
Senator Wayne D. Fontana
42nd Senatorial District