Close PA Budget Hole by Cutting Pork

By Representative Jim Cox (R-Berks)


A little more than one month after Governor Ed Rendell signed it into law, the Pennsylvania budget has a $255 million hole.  To help close that gap, lawmakers should eliminate millions of dollars in wasteful spending on pork-barrel projects.


The budget signed into law by the governor relied on $850 million in federal funding for one particular program.  As it turns out, the Congress has approved a smaller amount of funding for Pennsylvania, leaving the $255 million hole in our state spending plan.


The governor has already begun calling for tax increases.  He wants to raise taxes on Pennsylvania businesses that collect the state sales tax for the government. 


Currently, the state allows merchants to retain a very small percentage of the sales taxes they collect.  This is a form of compensation for serving as the government’s tax collectors.  The governor wants to eliminate this provision, essentially forcing Pennsylvania merchants to serve as uncompensated state tax collectors.


This may sound good at first, until you realize that taking more money from these companies will reduce their ability to hire and pay workers.  Is this really what government should do in the middle of an economic downturn when unemployment hovers around 10 percent?  This tax increase could further reduce job opportunities for the unemployed.


The governor also continues to push for a tax on natural gas harvested in Pennsylvania.  While the idea of “taxing big gas companies” may be popular, it quickly loses steam when one considers that such a tax would certainly be passed onto the consumer in the form of higher natural gas prices.  Additionally, natural gas drillers forced to pay the tax would create fewer jobs due to the extra burden on their businesses.


There is a better answer.  Instead of taking more money from private citizens and employers or further cutting essential state services, the Commonwealth should reduce wasteful government spending.


The primary target should be state earmarks, often referred to as WAMs (Walking Around Money grants).  These dollars are little more than taxpayer-financed slush funds to finance photo opportunities for politicians.


The lawmaker shows up at a press event with an oversized cardboard check, taking responsibility for funding a particular project.  Meanwhile, it is Pennsylvania taxpayers who foot the bill.


Recently, I joined 25 of my colleagues in the House as we sent a letter to Governor Rendell asking him to eliminate nearly $100 million in these pork-barrel projects.


In addition, Pennsylvania could save hundreds of millions of dollars by simply enacting some meaningful welfare reforms that have been identified by Pennsylvania’s Democrat Auditor General Jack Wagner.


The truth is, there is no need for a tax increase to close the budget hole.  There is also no need to cut education, police or other vital services.  Anyone who suggests otherwise is simply playing politics.


The General Assembly should work together in a bipartisan manner to enact the welfare reforms suggested by the auditor general.  The governor should eliminate the nearly $100 million in wasteful pork-barrel spending.


We can close this state budget hole without a tax increase or painful cuts to the basic functions of government.  However, we cannot do this while the state continues to waste money on welfare benefits for those who have not earned them and spending projects designed to get the lawmaker’s name in the media.


Pennsylvania taxpayers should not settle for the false choice between higher taxes or fewer essential state services.  Instead, they should demand cuts in wasteful state spending.


Education funding, support for police officers and other important government services should not be sacrificed in an effort to maintain the state’s inefficient welfare system and protect politically driven spending initiatives.


Do not let anyone tell you that you have to accept a tax increase or reduced services to eliminate this state budget hole.  Any politician who suggests this is simply trying to dig deeper into your pockets for more tax revenue or attempting to protect his or her wasteful spending projects.


The answer is not always more taxes or fewer teachers and police officers.  Sometimes the answer is wiser spending.  That is the case here.


Rep. Jim Cox
129th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(610) 670-0139
(717) 772-2435
Contact:  Dan Massing

 (717) 782-9845

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