Pennycuick Op-Ed: Governor’s Budget Risks Future Tax Hikes, Program Cuts

Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-24)

As I sat in the state Capitol rotunda listening to Gov. Josh Shapiro lay out his 2024-25 budget proposal, I couldn’t help but wonder if the gilded hall rubbed off on the governor, giving him a different perception of the state of the commonwealth’s finances. Perhaps he was transported back to when this magnificent building was constructed in the early 1900’s, representing the power of a Pennsylvania flush with industrial revolution cash.

Times have certainly changed.

The governor is swinging for the spending fences in this budget. Without even mentioning future fiscal years, his 2024-25 budget alone proposes an increase in spending of $3.2 billion, bringing our state budget up to $48.3 billion.

But what I find troubling is not the programs he wants to create or fund. I find many of these initiatives to be worthy of government funding. Where we must be cautious as lawmakers, and of the governor’s plan, is asking how are we going to pay for this spending tab without asking Pennsylvanians to bear significant tax increases and service cuts in the near future?

I see very few paths forward without this very real possibility.

The governor proposes to spend all of Pennsylvania’s budgetary reserves (coined the Rainy-Day Fund), vastly overstates future tax revenue growth, understates projected growth in our human services budget, and plays budgetary tricks (such as not booking increased education funding beyond the current fiscal year) to balance this un-balanceable budget.

Using one-time dollars for reoccurring expenses is not the way to create a sustainable budget.

There is the real potential, if fully enacted, that the bipartisan hard work done in recent years to help right Pennsylvania’s fiscal ship could be undone.

Make no mistake, I believe there are initiatives worthy of support. I, too, believe we should be fully funding education, especially basic and special education, and providing parents with real education alternatives and finding better pathways that will lead their children to success. Additionally, now is the time to tackle cyber charter school reform.

I was glad to see the governor include new economic development programs that are long overdue. Recently, I held a roundtable with semiconductor industry experts to discuss how we can better support this growing, geo-strategically important industry, which can serve as a powerful economic driver for southeastern Pennsylvania. We can make investments today in our economy that will pay dividends in the future and build homegrown family-sustaining jobs.

We also need to work toward a more sustainable funding system to support our local fire and EMS companies, protect government agencies against ever-increasing cyberattacks, and institute necessary reforms to ensure that every veteran receives the benefits they earned.

But as lawmakers, we must be judicious and strategic when making these decisions. The public has entrusted us with the sacred responsibility of being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Ultimately, we must balance our budget and ensure that we are not asking more from families that are already struggling with high inflation and rising property taxes.

As we begin our Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearings, I look forward to taking a deeper dive into this proposal and finding ways we can come to the table and compromise. But ultimately, we need to take a balanced approach that not only funds key areas of government responsibility, but also ensures that our financial footing is not jeopardized in this and future budgets.

If we don’t, the people who can least afford it, the people we collectively represent, will be saddled with the burden.

Back to Top