Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett released his mid-year budget assessment on Tuesday, and Democrats quickly seized the opportunity to criticize the administration. The Governor says that the state is headed toward a $500 million dollar shortfall in the 2011-2012 budget, and he predicted a $750 million dollar hole in the 2012-2013 budget if no changes are made. Democrats countered by saying that Corbett is leading the state in the wrong direction.
Pennsylvania Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) is the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. After meeting with the Governor and his budget secretary, he chided the administration for not spending the money that it does have on hand.
"There was no discussion. There have been no policy initiatives to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars that exist in PennVest. Money that is already there, no tax increase, money that is sitting right there that can be spent across the state to rebuild our water and sewer infrastructure," said Hughes.
Hughes said that spending the funds would put Pennsylvanians to work, creating much needed tax revenues.
"This has got to be about the business of putting Pennsylvania's people back to work, and not playing false budgetary games to attract or achieve some ancillary policy initiative," said Hughes. Some Democrats hinted that the Governor is painting a bleak financial picture in an effort to drum up support for an austere 2012-2013 budget.
Pennsylvania Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton County) is the chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. She reacted slightly differently to the announcement. Boscola said that the state needs to start by finding savings in the Department of Public Welfare. "If you are eligible for benefits, fine, but if you are not, we want to eliminate it, because there is a lot of waste and fraud out there," said Boscola. She said that the second priority would then be cutting spending in the Department of Corrections.
The Governor will present his 2012-2013 spending plan in February. The current fiscal year ends June 30th.