HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Capital Star is reporting… Pennsylvania would have a massive budget deficit within three years under Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed 2023-24 budget, the ranking Republican member of the state House Appropriations Committee said Wednesday. Rep. Seth Grove, of York County, outlined House Republicans’ priorities in upcoming budget negotiations and hearings in a news conference where he said Shapiro’s budget plan obscures growth in spending – and uses an overly optimistic estimate for expenditures in coming years. Shapiro’s $44.4 billion spending plan masks a structural deficit by drawing more than $2 billion from the state’s nearly $6 billion surplus, Grove said.
That continues a practice in place since former GOP Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration, Grove said, of using windfalls, such as the state’s share of tobacco settlement funds, to balance the budget. All those gimmicks … mask that reality of a $2 billion deficit, structural deficit within the budget, and it’s something that needs to be addressed, the sooner the better, because it just will continue to get worse. “We’ve had billions of federal dollars come into the commonwealth …” Grove said, referring to the pandemic-era federal aid . “That’s why we have such a high surplus and rainy day fund currently.” “All those gimmicks … mask that reality of a $2 billion deficit, structural deficit within the budget, and it’s something that needs to be addressed, the sooner the better, because it just will continue to get worse,” Grove said.
Shapiro spokesperson Manuel Bonder said Shapiro’s proposal is a commonsense plan that provides solutions to the most pressing needs of Pennsylvania residents. “In keeping with the governor’s track record of fiscally responsible leadership, this budget is built around conservative revenue estimates – using projections that are $3 billion lower over the next five years than those of the always-cautious Independent Fiscal Office,” Bonder said. Bonder added: “The governor looks forward to working with the Democratic-led House and the Republican-led Senate to deliver on these commonsense solutions for all Pennsylvanians.” Grove commended Shapiro’s proposed investments in career and technical education, expansion of the state police, and hiring of more Department of Environmental Protection inspectors to expedite permit reviews.
But he added that he and fellow Republicans will be looking for accountability. “If we’re going to give them more money to hire new staff, we do expect a point in time where these permits will be done,” Grove said. Assuming spending continues to grow at 6%, which Grove said is a more realistic figure than Shapiro’s projections, the deficit could top $10 billion in five years. At the same time, Grove said he is pessimistic about economic growth in the state. Shapiro’s plan to accelerate the reduction of the corporate net income tax and to streamline the environmental permitting process are a good start. Grove said those measures alone won’t be able to reverse decades of job and population losses.