Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said that it’s up to members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to find funding within the Governor’s proposed budget to restore the administration’s proposed severe cuts to basic and higher education. As Zogby laid it out on Sunday’s edition of Pennsylvania Newsmakers, the Pennsylvania budget is a zero sum game where funding one program comes at the expense of another one.
But here’s an idea – ease the pain by raising new revenues. Last week Maryland enacted a 7.5 percent severance tax on natural gas production. In contrast, the impact fee passed by Pennsylvania in February has an effective tax rate of only 1.4 to 2.6 percent depending on the price of gas. The members of the General Assembly who voted for the bill walked away from gas driller money, and now will need to figure out how to get adequate funding to their school districts. According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s drilling tax ticker, Commonwealth taxpayers have lost out on more than $300 million since 2009.
Corbett’s budget cuts are hurting our communities. The administration’s fealty to no-new-taxes ideology is leading to deterioration of the quality of education as teachers lose their jobs, class sizes increase and core programs are eliminated. Hardly any school district, no matter how well off, has been spared. The Central Dauphin School District in the suburbs of Harrisburg is planning to lay off 74 teachers, cut foreign language classes for 8th graders, and take away art, music, physical education and the library from kindergarten.
According to the anti-tax ideology, taking away crayons and tambourine bands from 5-year-olds is necessary to grow Pennsylvania’s economy out of the recession and create jobs. But that’s not what is happening. An analysis of job creation published by “The Nation” magazine shows that the worse job losses in the country are concentrated in states where Republicans won the governorship from Democrats and gained control of both chambers of the state legislature. Five of these states, Pennsylvania among them, lost 2.5 percent of their workforces between December 2010 and December 2011 as compared to other states which on average lost only half a percent of their workforces.
Laying off teachers and state and local government workers is no way to grow an economy out of a recession. Investing in education, transportation infrastructure and maintaining vital services is not wasteful spending, it’s necessary to maintaining the economic integrity of our communities. There are sources of new revenue that could be tapped, like a reasonable drilling tax, to boost our economy and save and create jobs.
Please note - blog url has changed.