Pa. state budget season is here: no new taxes, lots of new money from federal stimulus

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Lawmakers return to Harrisburg next week and the budget will be job one. Federal stimulus and robust revenues should make the budget process less contentious but there are concerns.

It was earlier this year that Governor Wolf called for an income tax hike. “This is about asking folks who have already made it to shoulder a little more of the burden,” Wolf said.

But fiscally, that was eons ago. “Taxes are definitely off the table. We’re not gonna consider that or any fee increases where possible,” State Rep. (R) and Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor said.

What’s on the table? Billions from the federal government directly to the state. Billions more for counties and schools and tax collections running billions ahead of projections despite the pandemic. That windfall should make budgeting fast and easy, right?

“I think that’s oversimplified,” State Rep. (D) and Appropriations Chairman Matt Bradford said. “We have long-term structural challenges in our budget.”

Saylor worries that the money will be spent carelessly, people will be hired who will then have to be fired when the money runs out. He says that happened in 2008.

“This is one-time money. We told them the last time they didn’t listen. We’re telling them again,” Saylor said. “These are taxpayer’s dollars. Everybody said federal dollars and they are federal dollars but they still come from the taxpayers and they have to pay those dollars back. How we spend them we have to be held accountable.”

Conventional wisdom at the capitol is this budget will be done well before the June 30 deadline.

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