Pothole Time: Ed Wants Fed Road $ For Public Transit

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that Gov. Rendell is plotting to use  money the feds kick back to Pa. to keep its share of the national roadway system passable to bail out the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which is Pittsburgh public transit system and is facing a $47 million deficit.

“You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, but that may be the only choice I’m
left with,” Not-So-Fast-Anymore-According-To-Polling Eddie said.

Hmmm. So the only way to solve this mess according to those we voted to rule us is to let our national roads go to pot? Edddie says yes because wiser minds kept him from creating traffic bottlenecks on I-80 as a government revenue raiser.

How about this to solve this crisis:

  • We cut salaries for all state workers until revenue increases which would be when Pennsylvanians start finding jobs, getting raises and buying things?
  • We limit state pensions to $50,000 ex post facto (It would certainly be as moral as taxing a widow out of her home albeit those who vote themselves $313,000 annual pensions would disagree, I’m sure.
  • We repeal strange and onerous laws that burden local taxing authorities such as Act 195, the 1970 law that prohibits school boards from replacing striking teachers and the passage of which saw a dramatic increase in school cost and a correspondingly dramatic decline in educational quality.
  • We end prevailing wage requirements to allow public projects to be built in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
  • We embrace the 21st Century in the conveyance of information.

It’s time we Pennsylvanians come to realize that neither our governor, nor our legislature, nor our state courts for that matter, look out for us. Their constituencies are themselves. They are not men and women of the people but men and women of the hacks,

And it’s about time we recognize that we are allowed to get mad about it.

Passed Pa. Budget Defines Deficit Spending

The General Assembly, yesterday, approved a $28.05 billion general fund budget that is about a billion dollars less than what Gov. Rendell wanted but is still about $3 billion more than the state receives in revenues  as pointed out by Nate Benefield of Commonwealth Foundation.

The vote was 37-13 in the Senate. The only Democrats among the dissenters were LeAnna Washington of the 4th District, Jim Ferlo of the 38th District, and Daylin Leach of the 17th District, which includes Haverford and Radnor townships in Delaware County.  The county’s GOP senate contingent supported the bill, however, as Dominic Pileggi of the 9th District and Ted Erickson of the 26th District voted aye.

The vote was 117-84 in the House with Chelsa Wagner of the 22nd District being the only Democrat dissenter. Republicans supporting the bill included Bill Adolph of the 165th District and Nick Miccozie of the 163rd District, both of which are in Delaware County.

Rendell is expected to sign the bill.

The general fund, btw, is less than half  of what the state will actually spend.

Harrisburg To Spend Twice-Plus What You Might Think

The dying dinosaur media chronicles yet another  Pennsylvania budget crisis in dry wire service reports on inside pages focusing like a laser beam on the $29.03 billion in general fund spending sought by Gov. Rendell — which, btw, would still be $1.04 billion higher than last year — with nary a mention that Harrisburg expects to spend more than twice that — $37 billion to be specific — regardless of what is passed.

This usually unremarked-upon spending is via special funds estimated for next year at $14.4 billion and federal money estimated for next year at $23 billion and which does not include stimulus money which was folded right into the general fund.

The state has 139 special funds to which money is directed from sources specified by law and their disbursements this year range from  zero  for the Energy Conservation and Assistance Fund to $2.58 billion for the State Employees Retirement Fund and $5.36 billion for the School Employees Retirement Fund.

Now, one would think that expenditures for things like pensions are set in stone and must not be considered in resolving the looming shortfalls, but then you would have to say that it is moral and just take from newlyweds, widows and struggling businesses to pay  legislators like state Sen. Robert Mellow (D-22) pensions of $313,000, and bureaucrats like John Winchester salaries of $236,265 to administer the money,

And, of course, it is not.

And I would hope that all would understand it not just kinder but wiser to see government workers take a hit in the pensions bringing them down to $50,000 for the year, than see someone forced from their home or to shut their business, the latter of which would obviously cut the tax base even further  would lead one to wonder how the state would end up funding these Cadillac pensions anyway.

Local government, btw, is expected to spend $67.8 billion on top of that next year in Pennsylvania.

A big hat tip to Nate Benefield and the always excellent Commonwealth Foundation along with PaIndependent.Com

A Titanic Pa. Budget Problem And Iceberg Looms

With the April take in hand, Pennsylvania’s General Fund revenues are $1.1 billion below estimate for the 2009-10 fiscal year, according to the state’s Department of Revenue.

The fiscal year ends June 30.

Secretary of Revenue C. Daniel Hassell said the state collected $2.9 billion in General Fund revenue in April, which was $390 million,or 11.8 percent, less than anticipated.

April, of course, is a major tax collection month.

Gov. Ed Rendell, in February, forecast a $525 million shortfall come FY end. Looks like some serious wishful thinking.

For those who think the problem is low taxes — LOL — Pennsylvania tax take in 2002, which was the year before Rendell took office, was $22 billion compared to $30 billion last year.

With two months remaining this year’s revenue is $22.8 billion.

Hat tips to CommonwealthFoundation.org and PaIndependent.Com

Uh Oh Chongo, Court Says Pa. Must Move $800M To MCare

Commonwealth Court, today , ruled that Pennsylvania most move $800 million into the MCare Fund , set up in 2002 to help defray malpractice insurance costs for the state’s medical professionals. The vote was 4-1 with the dissenter Judge Dan Pellegrini, not citing law but expediency and class envy namely that the budget is now out of balance and the doctors will get money.

Money was transferred from the fund last fall to end the 101-day budget impasses and avoid making massive cuts in state spending.

Even with the transfer, a huge budget deficit — some estimate it at $1 billion — was looming.

And this doesn’t even take into account the soon-to-hit pension crisis .

Gov. Rendell has said he will appeal which would be to state Supreme Court.

With regard to Judge Pellegrini, I hope he is as comfortable with expediency when it comes to his own pension since some cold-blooded expediency in that matter might be the only that that keeps regular working folks from serious suffering.

Hat tip to GrassrootsPa.Com

Revenue Way Off In Pa. As Obamanomics Grinds Its Heel

Obamanomics continues to take its toll on Pennsylvania as the nation continues to suffer through the Great Dempression.

The Keystone State collected $3.9 billion in general fund revenue in March which was $243 million less than anticipated.
Year-to-date collections are $19.9 billion, which is $719.6 million, or
3.5 percent, below estimate, the state Revenue Department said April 2.

The sales tax brought in $569 million for March or $50.9 million less than expected. Sales tax receipts for the year are $5.9 billion which is $316.2 million off estimates.  State officials said the snow kept people inside in February,
meaning they spent less money. 

Personal income tax revenue for march was actually $57.7 million more than expected coming in at $811.9 million. Could it be that all the unemployed had time to do their income tax earlier? Ah, that was just being mean. Year-to-date personal income tax collections are at $6.8 billion which is $135.9 million less than hoped.

Corporate taxes in March were $264.2 billion off estimate coming in at $2.3 billion. Year-to-date collections are at $3.5 billion which is $283.2 million — or 7.5 percent — off estimate.

You can say people aren’t dying to pay their taxes here. Inheritance tax collections for March were $68.2 million or $5.1 million below estimate. YTD is $545.7 million or $13 million below estimate.

So how are we going to pay for all that looming pension pain? or that $1.2 billion in new spending that Gov. Rendell is seeking?

Pa. To Pay $800M Tax Anticipation Loan In May And June

The $800 million Pennsylvania borrowed via tax anticipation notes (TAN) authorized Dec. 7 is due June 30.

Along with $6.5 million in interest.

The law gives these notes  the first right of revenue. Revenue from state business taxes arrive in March followed by personal taxes in April.

The debt is scheduled to be paid off with $300 million in May and $500 million in June.

This year’s Pennsylvania budget is about $27 billion not including $1.2 billion in federal American Recover and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money. It is expected to rise between $1 billion and $1.2 billion.

This was the state’s first TAN offering since 1997.

Does Billion Dollar Spending Hike Loom For Pa. After All?

McCall.Com is reporting that Gov. Rendell along with the leadership in the state Senate and House has agreed that state spending will increase by $1 billion for 2010-11.

“We’ve agreed with the Legislature we will try to hold spending growth to about 4 percent,” Rendell reportedly said in a conference call. That would mean mean a $1 billion increase to the current $27.8 billion budget.

State Senate Minority Appropriations Committee Chairman Jay Costa (D-43) said a $1.2 billion spending hike is expected.

Rendell Wants $170 Million In Spending Cuts

Rendell Wants $170 Million In Spending Cuts — Pennsylvania’s Obamaconic budget crisis has caused Gov. Ed Rendell to announce a plan to cut state spending by $170 million and has specified where $161 million of those cuts would be.

It should be noted that Rendell said he was cutting last year but spending actually rose.

Under the just announced plan, State Correctional Institutions would receive $15.377 million less than last year. This appears to be the biggest line item cut.

Public Welfare would be cut $53.688 million, with County Child Welfare (-$10.4 million), Acute Care Hospitals (-$4.7 million), Autism Intervention and Services (-$4.5 million), the Human Services Development Fund (-$4 million), and Health Care Clinics (-$3 million) taking the biggest hits. Money to the acute care hospitals and health care clinics would, in fact, being zeroed out.

State money for education would be cut by $27.835 million with the biggest share of the cuts coming in the Authority Rentals and Sinking Fund Requirements line item at $11.5 million.

Things like Cultural Preservation Assistance, Regional History Centers and Minority Business Development would be zeroed out.

For the complete list see here.

Rendell Wants $170 Million In Spending Cuts

House Dems Vote For $1 Billion In New Taxes

The State House restarted the budget process last night by voting, 103-98, to resolve matters with $1 billion in new taxes. The vote was pretty much on party lines with Republican Dennis O’Brien joining the Democrats to vote for the taxes and Democrats John Pallone and Joe Petrarca joining the Republicans to vote nay.

Thanks to Government Bytes and Nathan Benefield for the tip.

Something to ponder: have things really been so bad without a budget? Maybe we will get lucky and they will never pass one. Status quo is better than new taxes.