While we have barely scratched the surface of 2017, the state of Pennsylvania has already passed the halfway point in its fiscal year….and we have some work to do. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, General Fund collections through December are more than $367 million below estimate. Sales tax receipts (more than $133 million below estimate) and Personal Income Tax revenue (nearly $126 million less than anticipated) make up more than 70 percent of the deficit.
That $367 million figure is expected to balloon to approximately $600 million. In addition, the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office has projected a $1.7 billion deficit come July 1, 2017.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address on Tuesday, Feb. 7, should be an interesting one. I am encouraged to hear the administration is committed to doing everything it can to avoid a major tax increase. I can also tell you a broad-based tax increase will not draw my support, and I don’t think there are enough votes in the House and Senate to pass such a measure.
I will have a front row seat to the process in my new appointment to the House Appropriations Committee. This bipartisan group considers legislation dealing with expenditures of money by state government. Our first responsibility will quickly follow the governor’s address, when we hear testimony from various state agencies that are funded by the budget. We will have the opportunity to question them about practices related to spending, in an effort to gauge levels of future appropriation. I look forward to working with new Majority Chairman Stan Saylor from York County on this committee.
I will also serve as a deputy whip during the 2016-17 session. This appointment carries a variety of responsibilities in the House, including assisting with member head counts and helping to promote certain tough issues facing the House Republican Caucus. I am also charged with keeping Majority Whip Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County informed about problems that members may have, or issues that might have an effect on the legislative agenda and on the caucus as a whole.
I have also been appointed to serve as a deputy chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. The committee travels across the state, conducting hearings and roundtable discussions about important issues to gather testimony and information from key stakeholders. I will attend these hearings and work with my colleagues to develop policies to address the issues that matter most to Pennsylvania citizens.
Passing a state budget is far from the sole responsibility of the General Assembly. But filling a hole as large as the anticipated budget deficit will take some doing. One thing is for certain – we cannot exclusively tax our way to prosperity. We must find ways to grow the economy. It’s easy to slap a tax increase on something. But if that increase deters positive economic activity, the anticipated revenues decline. Discovering ways to stimulate growth will result in increased consumer spending.
These are challenging times in which we live. As my roles and responsibilities in the state Legislature increase, I’m looking forward to taking on the challenges for not only the good of the 138th District, but for the good of all Pennsylvanians.
Representative Marcia Hahn
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Scott Little
RepHahn.com / Facebook.com/RepHahn