(image courtesy of PennBPC)
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has the big overview you want, and Daniel Denvir supplies the lefty political analysis you crave, but I read all the budget reporting over the past 24 hours, and here are the 10 big things I think you’ll hate about this year’s Republican budget:
1. There is no increase in basic education funding, they sustain last year’s cuts to the popular Rendell-era Accountability Block Grant, and the funding increase comes entirely from a new Corbett block grant that’s super prescriptive about how districts spend the money. Democrats are slamming it because they think it’s geared toward wealthier districts, and because this does absolutely nothing to restore the massive cuts to basic education in the first two Corbett budgets.
2. The rest of the funding increase comes from letting the state and school districts put off funding pensions some more. Naturally if you don’t pay your bills you’ll have more money left over, but there are consequences..
3. It eliminates funding for the Heritage Areas Program – a key land preservation program in the Growing Greener policy toolkit. This was slated for elimination last year but was eventually saved. Corbett’s trying to cut it again.
4. It raises $75 million from new drilling in PA state forests and parks, and that money will not be earmarked to public lands. All Democratic candidates for Governor have promised a moratorium on drilling on public lands.
6. He’s leaving money on the table by doing the fake CorbettCare expansion instead of real public Medicaid expansion. Real Medicaid expansion would generate $400 million in savings annually, while Healthy PA is only supposed to net $125 million.
7. The Republicans have so far passed about $1 billion in corporate tax cuts. We now have a $1.2 billion structural budget deficit. Naturally there is no sign that this “coincidence” has entered into Corbett’s thinking at all.
8. It contains a tax cut, despite the tax cut-created budget deficit – a reduction in the Capital Stock and Franchise tax, with a full unpaid-for phase-out planned for 2016. This is nobody’s favorite tax, but as the last couple years prove, tax cuts don’t increase revenues, they deplete them. If you want to eliminate a tax, you have to raise taxes or cut spending elsewhere, or else you get a budget deficit. Duh!
9. The prison budget increases by $78M, or 4%, even though PA’s prison population is projected to shrink by 1000 people this year. As PennBPC points out, it costs about $41,100 to incarcerate one prisoner for a year.
10. Corbett relies on a bunch of one-time revenues to fill the gap, including fake revenues like $175 million from a doomed “pension reform” push, and $125 million for Medicaid eligibility and benefits changes that the federal government clearly won’t approve.