PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There’s at least one thing Pennsylvania lawmakers of both parties agree on — the state faces another budget deficit.
“I think it’s very serious,” says Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone, an Elizabeth Republican.
“It’s a significant crisis,” adds Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Frankel, a Shadyside Democrat.
“We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us,” warns Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Kortz, a Dravosburg Democrat.
Ten local lawmakers attended the Pittsburgh luncheon of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors on Friday, and it was a chance to talk to them about the state’s ongoing inability to balance its budget.
“We’re down this year from where we had projected to be by about $600 million,” noted Frankel.
Frankel says not only is the current budget out of whack, but the fiscal year that begins July 1 will be worse.
“We are looking at $1.7 billion in addition to that next year, so you’re looking at [a deficit] somewhere between $2 and $2.5 billion,” he said.
How to fix that without raising the state’s personal income tax or sales tax divides lawmakers.
Republicans, who control the legislature, say cut government programs, and the big ticket items are education, medical assistance, and social services.
“Be prepared to cut spending,” warns Saccone. “For those who are not prepared to do that, they should run to their safe place now and hide. I’ve offered to send some of my granddaughter’s crayons for therapy, and the rest of us are going to have to get ready to go in there and cut some spending and reign in this government.”
While Saccone favors an across-the-board budget cut in all agencies, say two percent, Pennsylvania Rep. Darryl Metcalfe says think big, like consolidating PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission.
“We have to do things in a different way,” says Metcalfe. “I think people are demanding that. I think we saw that in the elections this year. We saw that in the election of Donald Trump.”
With Gov. Tom Wolf opposed to a major tax hike, Democrats concede there will be painful cuts instead.
“It looks like we’re going to be looking at cutting. That’s where . . . where do you go?” asks Kortz.
The bottom line for taxpayers?
“A straight income tax or sales tax to balance the state budget? I don’t think you’re going to see that happening,” says Pennsylvania Sen. Jay Costa, the Senate Democratic leader from Forest Hills.