HARRISBURG – Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) voted against Senate Bill 1073, legislation that would appropriate over $30.8 billion to fund state government operations for 2015-16.
“My vote today was in support of taxpayers,” said Sen. Aument. “This agreement may be the best compromise that our legislative leaders could make with Governor Wolf, but it spends more money than we can afford and will ultimately ask the people of Pennsylvania to pay more for their government.”
Senate Bill 1073 was introduced as a compromise to the ongoing budget impasse that has lasted for over six months. It was negotiated by leaders of the caucuses in the House of Representatives and Senate. Yesterday, Senators were privately briefed on the details of the plan, which was voted today.
“Time and again elected leaders talk about controlling the cost of government,” said Sen. Aument. “Yet, when you consider the increases contained in Senate Bill 1073, you can only draw one conclusion – all levels of state government are getting bigger and ultimately, the bill will come due to pay for these decisions.”
Supporters of Senate Bill 1073 heralded the measure as the only viable way to end the ongoing budget impasse. They also noted that the legislation fully funds the state’s current structural deficit, makes “historic” new investments in education and allows the Governor to enact into law public pension reform.
“Structural deficits cannot be fixed by spending more money,” said Sen. Aument. “The fact that our Commonwealth overspent last year should be a clear indication that we need to slow the growth of state spending, not accelerate it.”
Sen. Aument also noted that while the legislation appropriates an unprecedented $350 million new dollars for basic education (6.3% increase from last year), $60 million funding increases for early childhood learning, and $50 million increase (5% increase from last year) for special education, when he reviewed how these new monies would be driven out to individual school districts, the results disproportionately favored some schools over others.
“I came to the Senate to fight for Lancaster County, not Philadelphia,” said Sen. Aument. “I cannot justify casting my vote to give the Philadelphia School District over $100 million more (a 10.3% increase) when schools in my district do not realize anything close to that increase.”
The Senator also questioned the wisdom of providing so much new money for schools without enacting corresponding educational reforms.
“I will not celebrate spending hundreds of millions of more dollars for schools when so many students and parents are telling me that what they really want is higher quality education and better student outcomes,” said Sen. Aument. “Spending more money is the easy road to take, and I think we should focus on doing the hard work of reforming our educational system.”
Sen. Aument also expressed concern about the increased taxes, which will be considered by the General Assembly in the near future. “Someone has to pay for these spending increases,” he said. “And unfortunately it will be the people of Lancaster County and Pennsylvania, who, I believe, would prefer we do more with less, not do less with more.”
“I do not take lightly voting against this spending bill,” said Sen. Aument. “We must get money flowing out of the State Treasury and into vital programs such as human services and education. However, that cannot be done in a manner that further burdens taxpayers and promotes an unsustainable growth in state government.”
Senate Bill 1073 passed the Senate 43-7 and has been sent the House of Representatives for concurrence.
Immediately following the adoption of Senate Bill 1073, the Senate considered Senate Bill 1082, legislation that would transform the public sector pensions.
“I was proud to support public sector pension reform,” said Sen. Aument. “This is the type legislation that the people expect us to enact – one that promotes fairness to existing and retired public employees, but that finally ends the current costly defined benefit system that is not financially sustainable.”
Under Senate Bill 1082, new public employees would be shifted into a hybrid “side by side” pension benefit system that utilizes a significantly reduced defined benefit and a traditional 401(K)-style program. The changes would also affect lawmakers.
“The current cost of public sector pensions is crippling the state and school district budgets and this legislation will greatly help fix that problem,” said Sen. Aument. “However I am extremely concerned that Governor Wolf indicated that he would only sign this bill into law if the General Assembly gave him the spending increases and taxes that he requested. No Governor should demand more spending and taxes to enact necessary reforms like this.”
Senate Bill 1082 passed the Senate 38-12 and has been sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz, (717) 787-4420