Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Budget Blahs

This time of the year the state budget wears everybody down. Just pass it.

Budget Blahs


(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

BE: I'm so sick of all these budget stories. The state will end the fiscal year with a $500 million surplus. Just take a chunk of that to reduce some of the more egregious cuts in education and social programs and then go home. Everybody should shut up and do it. If this drags on until June 30, I'm gonna shot myself.

JB: How could I go on without you?

BE: I'm serious. This is ridiculous. Every spring, the same thing.

JB: Welcome to the circus. It comes once a year and all the clowns are here. They need to perform their acts, bleat their ideologies and collect more per diems.

BE: Am I right?

JB: Partly. First, the "surplus" is really just an increase in estimated revenue collections. It's currently $539.5 million and many expect that by the end of June it will top $600 million.

BE: So that touted $4 billion deficit is gone?

JB: That "deficit" is what would have occurred IF the state spent at the same level during the next fiscal year that it's spending during this fiscal year.

BE: But it's not cuz of Corbett's cuts.

JB: Key-rect. And cuz of the loss of federal stimulus dollars.

BE: So why not just spend some of the "surplus" as I suggest.

JB: You and a whole bunch of Dems and a few GOPers. The problem is Corbett. Wants to sock it away in savings, many suspect to create a pile of money over the next two years so he can call for a tax cut the year he runs for reelection.

BE: Wait, a decision on behalf of the citizens that is about politics instead of what's best? That Corbett is a clever one.

JB: We'll see. Even some in his party's leadership say it's wrong to enact harmful cuts while leaving lots of money on the table.

BE: So I'm right!

JB: Partly. The betting is some creative accounting will either backfill this year's budget with more money, put some money in an off-budget account such as the tobacco settlement fund, honor Corbett's insisted spending limit of $27.3 billion, call it a day and go home for the summer.

BE: On time? On or before June 30?

JB: On time is their most important goal. Takes precedent over fiscal sense, what's best for citizens or what works in the long-term. So I think you can unload your weapon.

BE: I might keep just one in the chamber. Grrrr.

Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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