After reading the fake news headlines and special interest propaganda over the past week about the House Republican state budget revenue plan, it’s become crystal clear that facts don’t matter to some people. With that, I’m here to set the record straight by providing facts and an accurate lay of the state budget land.
On Wednesday evening, I joined 102 of my fellow House colleagues in voting for a budget revenue plan that called for zero tax increases and would not borrow one single dollar. A large group of rank-and-file legislators, the House Appropriations Committee and our leadership team worked together over the last six weeks to develop this plan to pay back the governor’s $1.5 billion deficit from 2016-17 and cover anticipated revenues for the 2017-18 budget, which total about $600 million.
The group looked very closely at 218 funds, totaling $12.1 billion held by the state treasurer. We voted to tap into 38 of the slush fund accounts, which would transfer more than $630 million in surplus money to fund our budget.
Is it possible that these idle funds are sitting around waiting to be tapped by the governor and others to distribute cardboard checks and WAMs? Our plan requests a small fraction of the $12.1 billion that is currently in those funds. I think the budget shortfall is a better use for a small portion of those surplus dollars.
Let’s put it this way. If a family has a savings account with $5,000, which has never dipped below $4,000, and their washing machine needs to be replaced, would they be better off buying a new one on a credit card, and paying interest, or taking the money from their solid savings? The financially responsible answer is to dip into savings for that one-time cost, because that’s what savings are for. That is exactly what we are doing here with this revenue plan.
Throughout the last several weeks, while this plan was being completed, the Democrats and special interest groups have been crying foul. Some groups have even told me the Legislature should not touch their money. I want to remind these groups that it is not their money; it is the money of the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. Further, the Democrats, as usual, just want to turn to increasing taxes, any tax really.
In doing their due diligence, the working group invited department heads, including state agency secretaries, to come forward with proof that tapping into the select funds would prevent fulfilling commitments to their various programs. To the best of my knowledge, we are still waiting to hear from any of them with hard data to support their doomsday claims.
As a simple guy, whose dad drove a bread truck for 30 years, and who grew up in a big family in a half a double (a twin or a duplex to some of you) home in the coal regions, I understand, appreciate and respect every taxpayer dollar that is collected. That is why I find it absolutely nonsensical to ask for more tax money or borrowing to fund this budget when we have found surplus funds from within that will not cost one job, or affect any program or service.
When faced with the decision of siding with special interest groups, regardless of which party they support, or the taxpayers of Pennsylvania, I will side with taxpayers every time. Why would anybody with a $12 billion slush fund ever consider raising any tax?
Representative Jerry Knowles
Pennsylvania House of Representatives