Hey, Harrisburg: Cut Spending to Match Economy
The extraordinarily drawn out wrangling over the State budget is now reduced to a fight over who and what gets new or higher taxes. And why are we at this impasse? Because the Governor wants to maintain spending at a level the tax base cannot support during the prolonged recession.
It is time to realize that the federal government with its massive stimulus program and almost criminally aggressive monetary policy must be the fiscally irresponsible players for the time being. Pennsylvania has to give up the notion that certain areas of spending are off limits. The Governor’s demand to hike education outlays at a time when several states have made cuts stands out as outrageous loyalty to his biggest support group-the teachers union.
No one in the capital has even asked unionized government workers, especially teachers, to forgo this year’s salary increases. The only major occupational group other than health care to face no layoffs also gets its salary and benefits raised regardless of the state’s financial mess.
In a couple of years, taxpayers are going to be body slammed with property and state tax increases to cover an enormous jump in pension costs, thanks to earlier excessive generosity by governing and taxing bodies. Teachers and other state workers could certainly be asked to make a small sacrifice now to avoid the need for tax hikes this year. Only unimaginable brazenness on their part and cowardice on the part of politicians can explain the difficult pass the state has come to.
The sorry episode with pension reform wherein the legislature capitulated to last minute union demands essentially gutted the reform package simply reinforces the situation in Pennsylvania. Public sector unions have far too much say in the conduct of government. But they will look back and realize their victories were hollow because of the damage to the state’s long term economic health they have inflicted. They can watch their children and grandchildren move away in search of economic opportunity.