Budget Pain in Pennsylvania

Faced with a revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year and ongoing large hikes in the funds needed to cover pension costs, the Governor is almost certain to present a quite austere budget for fiscal year 2012-2013. And as expected the cries of "not fair" and "too harsh" are rising and will be heard vociferously in the days ahead.

Interestingly, when there are austere budgets and some programs get no increases or have actual cuts in their allocations, pundits and critics talk about the pain the budget will inflict. Isn’t it peculiar that the same pundits and beneficiaries of public largesse are seldom, if ever, heard commenting on the pain taxpayers are feeling when they are forced to cough up the money to fund programs and when their wallets are tapped even further to meet the spending demands of special interests?

No, it is always those whose gravy train is threatened who scream the loudest. Why is that? It’s a classic case of public choice theory. When the benefits of government spending are concentrated, as is the case with teacher unions, a decline in spending is felt more acutely than the pain of higher tax revenue spread over the entire population of taxpayers, many of whom have been convinced that tax hikes are a good thing. Then too, because so many special interest group members and their families and friends are also taxpayers, the ability of taxpayers to present a united opposition to tax hikes is even more difficult.

Thus, the beneficiaries often present a more strenuous opposition to spending cuts than the opposition taxpayers are able to mount against tax increases. Only by electing a majority of people who are fervently committed to resisting the massive pressure from many powerful groups to raise spending and taxes can the taxpayers ever have a fighting chance. Apparently, that is the case in Harrisburg right now. And that is driving the special interests nuts.

Will the current favorable situation last beyond the next election? One can hope.