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O’Neal: Shapiro’s Budget: Irresponsible Spending and More Costs for Pennsylvanians

To put it simply, Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed budget is hallmarked by irresponsible spending increases and initiatives that will increase costs for Pennsylvanians and likely lead to future tax increases.

While Gov. Shapiro claims his spending plan is $44.4 billion, what he does not include is funding for the State Police, which he moves into a non-transparent offline account.

When one considers that spending, which the Commonwealth will be responsible for and that was taken out of the General Fund, along with expiring COVID federal dollars, total spending in the budget rings in at $45.8 billion, or a $2.5 billion increase that is nearly six percent over last year’s budget.

As a legislature, we will absolutely keep our commitment to law enforcement and ensure police and prosecutors have the resources they need to keep us safe. But the overall irresponsible spending increase and non-transparent funding shifts are what Republicans worked hard to avoid over the last 12 years.

To cover for the increase in spending that is projected this year and carrying over into future fiscal years, Gov. Shapiro has also proposed raiding our hard-earned state reserve accounts that we worked to build up over the years despite trying economic circumstances.

Pennsylvania is blessed to have a significant surplus and a moderately-funded Rainy Day Fund. But under the budget plan and fiscal outlook proposed by Gov. Shapiro, the current surplus will be spent down completely in three years and the Rainy Day Fund fully raided in five years.

Not only does this leave Pennsylvania vulnerable to a sudden economic downturn or some type of emergency that would require unforeseen spending, but if Shapiro’s spending continues along this trend, it will undoubtedly lead to a tax increase on Pennsylvanians while national economic patterns continue to make the cost of living difficult.

Keeping spending in line with revenue is not only constitutionally required, but it is not that hard. Republicans in the legislature, leading on fiscal affairs, avoided the temptation to needlessly increase spending beyond what we could bring in. We did so while still investing more in public education, creating significant reserves, and continuing our support of law enforcement.

There is simply no need for this stark change in direction represented in Gov. Shapiro’s first budget proposal.

To make matters worse for Pennsylvanians, Gov. Shapiro’s budget assumes revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is a direct tax on Pennsylvanians’ energy bills and comes at a time when Pennsylvanians have been paying historically high amounts to heat their homes, turn on their lights, and fuel their cars.

While then-candidate Shapiro expressed concern and even lukewarm disapproval of RGGI, now-Gov. Shapiro is supporting this household budget-crushing and job-killing program.

As I said, Pennsylvanians are already paying too high a price for basic, everyday energy resources.

This is even more of a slap in the face given our abundant energy resources in Pennsylvania.

Instead of focusing on producing more of our home-grown energy assets and finding ways to get them to market to reduce our in-state energy costs and those across the country, Gov. Shapiro is literally raising the price of energy and making it more difficult for Pennsylvanians to make ends meet to sustain his irresponsible spending plan.

It is part of a trend in what we have seen from Gov. Shapiro’s largest policy initiative – purporting to say one thing, but actually doing another.

This is further evidenced in his call for permitting reform on one hand – a nod to limited government and making Pennsylvania more appealing to those looking to invest in our communities and workforce – and then hiring an army of labor law investigators on the other, which is a weaponization of our state government to attack our small business job creators in a way not seen since the early days of the COVID pandemic.

Looking ahead, Republicans in the House of Representatives are going to keep our commitment to sound budgeting principles.

We will maintain fiscal responsibility by advocating to keep spending in line with revenues and utilizing what we have to make key investments in growth areas while maintaining our commitment to education, law enforcement, and growing our economy.

We will work within our largest entitlement programs to save taxpayers money while providing those truly needing help with better alternatives.

And we will work toward a limited government that encourages growth, energy production, and the utilization of our strongest home-grown assets.

Pennsylvanians deserve better than having to pay more while receiving less, but that is what they are getting under Gov. Shapiro’s first proposed budget. When House Republicans have a seat at the table, we will fight to ensure taxpayers get the responsible government they deserve and expect.

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