As a result of federal largesse, the state finds itself with billions of dollars more than anyone would have expected earlier in Governor Tom Wolf’s second term, as reported by The Associated Press and Sun-Gazette in the edition of Tuesday.
“It’s a particularly unusual place for a state that has been largely mired in deficits since the Great Recession,” according to the article by AP writer Marc Levy.
It is with this harsh reality in mind that we share our hope that the Wolf administration will listen to Republicans, especially State Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, who wants the state to demonstrate prudence and keep at least $5 billion in reserve.
The recent history of state budget problems aptly demonstrates the wisdom of this approach – and the folly of creating new programs that cannot be sustained over the long term.
We recognize that a lot of federal money comes with strings attached, and the most notable of those strings are a deadline to spend the money and severe restrictions on how the funds are used to reduce tax rates. . And we are aware that Wolf wants to spend a lot on stimulus checks and college scholarships, among other proposals.
Yet we hope, for the sake of long-term fiscal common sense, that the state will be able to jump through enough hoops and grind enough loopholes to shore up state reserve accounts so that future deficits will not not be the obstacle that our leaders have allowed them to become. . We hope – as we’ve editorialized before – that our state will be able to reduce its corporate tax rate so that Pennsylvania is more attractive to employers that we are losing to Ohio, Virginia- Western and other states.
And we hope that to the extent that this money needs to be spent now, it can be spent on infrastructure — levees, water and sewer systems, roads, bridges, tunnels. The need to rehabilitate these facilities will not go away, and fixing them now can avoid having to spend so much on them when our budgets become leaner and more deficit-prone again.
Because leaner, more deficit-prone times will return, even if the federal government’s stipulations and the governor’s wish list are written as if we can all pretend they won’t.