Call me radical, but I think a good budget requires more than spirit

I participated in a press conference on Tuesday with the local chapter of Working America,  a national economic justice organization, to call for a Pennsylvania state budget that favours education and social services over corporate tax cuts. Here is my post on the event for the national Working America blog!

A few hours later, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett presented his vision for the state budget, which was not expected to be anything to cheer about. Now, I am a newcomer to Pennsylvania, and I am not going to write in-depth about PA-specific politicians and issues. What I am more interested in here is the disconnect between legislation that is both feasible and favoured by a majority of citizens, and the legislation that is proposed by politicians.

CaptureWhy politicians who face abysmal approval ratings (23% for Corbett last week) still try to get reelected is beyond me, but Corbett’s budget proposal is clearly aimed at garnering support this year. And even though most self-identified “progressive” individuals would rather drink West Virginia’s water than see Corbett reelected, his attempts to pass legislation that appeals to the majority could still be a good thing.  Unfortunately, his actual budget proposal makes that very unlikely.

In his speech, Corbett said that his budget sets the agenda in the “spirit” of expanding public education, which is… Nice. But the state budget doesn’t have a column for spirit, and very few of us have managed to exchange spirit for goods and services.  So where is the money for education coming from?

Capture3Mainly from a highly unlikely projected increase in state revenues.  Despite having predicted a budget deficit by the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year just a couple months ago, and despite revenue having come in short even of that projection in January, Corbett’s spending plan is dependent on a 4% increase in revenue this year.

In contrast, the budget that Working America and community members across the state support would see education and social services funded mainly by closing corporate tax loopholes, like the well-known Delaware tax loophole that deprives many states (except Delaware) of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

We presented this proposal before the release of Corbett’s plan because we wanted to make it clear that there is a viable alternative to empty, feel-good promises and more of the same political floundering that leaves the majority of us, in Pennsylvania and around the country, in a perpetual state of disadvantage. Crafting a state budget is undoubtedly a complex matter, but in the face of complexity, let’s turn to logical and equitable solutions, not spirit.

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