By Rep. R. Lee James (R-Venango/Butler)
As the General Assembly prepares for the 2022-23 fiscal year, the governor’s eighth and final budget address didn’t shy away from proposing a plan that if it were to ever take shape, it would crater Pennsylvania’s economy and financial standing. There’s a difference between targeted investments to improve our economy, education system and business climate, and emptying the monetary tank on anything and everything.
There is one good tidbit within this budget proposal that I do agree with: reducing the corporate net income tax (CNIT). The governor wants to gradually decrease it from 9.99%, which is one of the highest in the country, to 5.99% in 2027. My Republican colleagues and I have stressed passing employer-friendly measures for years in order to attract and retain businesses. I believe this is a good start to accomplish that.
Shifting gears to where my concerns lie: spending. The governor has called on the Legislature to spend a record-high $43.7 billion for the 2022-23 fiscal year, an increase of $6.2 billion, or 16.6%, from the current fiscal year, meaning the Commonwealth would spend an additional $17 million per day, and every working Pennsylvanian would fork over an additional $1,055 annually. Based on projections from the Independent Fiscal Office, a nonpartisan government entity, we would head into the 2023-24 fiscal year with an $800 million deficit -- a 180-degree turn. This, in turn, would handcuff the next governor from accomplishing goals that better Pennsylvania.
The governor’s spending plan also includes an estimated $410.6 million that would be generated by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) taxes to deposit into the Clean Air Fund. While I support efforts to address climate change, it’s been proven that RGGI fails to do so and would result in the rise of utility bill costs and job loss.
We must always think big picture, but we also need to stay in the moment and acknowledge that our finances are spiraling out of control.
The governor renewed his call once again to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Doing so would cause turmoil throughout our businesses as they try to balance pay increases with raising prices on their goods and services to pay for it. My colleagues and I believe that wages are increasing on their own due to the current economic conditions.
We must finalize a budget that satisfies current needs and doesn’t sacrifice our fiscal future. These are taxpayer dollars -- money that is fragile and must be handled with care – and we need to be held accountable for how we spend it. Having a surplus does not give us the right to go on an endless “shopping spree” and dole out money recklessly.
Rep. R. Lee James represents the 64th District in the Pennsylvania General Assembly comprising of Venango County and parts of Butler County.
Representative R. Lee James
64th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Nate Temple