HARRISBURG — Lancaster County Senators Ryan Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13) today voted against a revenue plan that passed the Senate based on concerns regarding the amount of borrowing included in the bill and the fact that the Governor vetoed House Bill 59 (Human Service Code Bill) that had included commonsense spending reforms to one of the biggest drivers of state spending, Medicaid.
House Bill 542, which passed by a 29-21 margin, authorized the state to borrow $1.5 billion against annual payments from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement for the next 10 to 30 years. The borrowing primarily helps fill a deficit created by weaker-than-expected revenue collections last year coupled with Governor Wolf’s failure to curtail spending when it became clear that revenues would fall short of projections.
“When confronting serious budget deficits in the past, governors have traditionally cut discretionary spending halfway through the year to help soften the blow in the next budget. This is the first time in recent memory that a governor has ignored the responsibility to trim expenses in the face of an enormous deficit,” Aument said. “Governor Wolf’s mismanagement created a problem that has no easy answers. The historic amount of borrowing in this plan reflects how dire the budget situation has become as a result of the governor’s inaction.”
“The concern is that borrowing money to fill a budget deficit will only lead to more deficits in the future. It fixes the problem today, but it doesn’t solve the problem for tomorrow,” Martin said. “We need to take a closer look at how we can create more sustainable and fiscally responsible budgets in the future so we don’t have to rely on borrowing and create more difficult and expensive spending plans going forward.”
Both Senators also found fault with the process that resulted in a nearly 4-month delay in approving the revenue portion of the budget.
“This prolonged budget process could have been avoided if lawmakers and the governor had focused on how to best allocate our existing resources, rather than settling on a spending plan that lacked the corresponding revenues,” Martin said. “That process is completely the opposite of the way that families, businesses and local governments create a budget. We need to spend only those revenues we have, not the revenues we wish we had.”
Aument has introduced legislation to create a biennial (two-year) budget cycle and has supported other budget process reforms to increase efficiency and productivity in state government.
“The most recent budget impasse is yet another reminder of the need to change the way we do business in Harrisburg. We need to spend less time and energy bickering annually over budget issues, and more time finding ways to promote business expansion and job growth so every citizen can succeed,” Aument said. “The current process is broken, but it is within our power to fix it. I am committed to working with both parties to make that goal a reality.”
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Terry Trego (717) 787-6535 (Senator Martin)