FILE - PA Jake Corman 5-2-2019

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman speaks May 1, 2019, during a news conference in Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania’s revenues are more than $800 million higher than anticipated, a number that Republican leaders in the state legislature say is a testament to conservative fiscal policies they championed.

In April, Pennsylvania collected $4.4 billion in General Fund revenue, which is $464.7 million or 11.8 percent more than predicted, according to Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell. So far this fiscal year, the Keystone State has collected $29.2 billion in General Fund revenue, which is $828.2 million or 2.9 percent above initial forecasts.

During a news conference this week, Republican legislative leaders said the numbers support the notion that Pennsylvania’s current financial position is the strongest it’s been in a decade.

“No doubt the strong national economy, the strong state economy has had a positive effect on us in terms of economic activity (and) revenue trends, but we are confident we have contributed to that,” state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Allentown, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said during the news conference. “Responsible budgeting decisions is not only spending decisions; it’s also revenue decisions.”

Republican leaders say they have resisted calls from Gov. Tom Wolf to increase spending. Wolf, a Democrat, has proposed a budget of more than $70 billion, and Republican leaders during their news conference said they planned to pass a budget lower than the governor requested.

“Because of that, we believe that we are in a stronger place to take advantage of the strong economic activity that’s happening nationally,” Browne said. “But, it’s bigger than that. It’s about a responsible fiscal strategy, which we’ve been promoting over the last 10 years, which includes keeping spending within and below the cost of living. Making it a smaller piece of (the) overall fiscal pie and overall spending here in the Commonwealth.”

Hassell also reported that since the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year, overall tax revenue is $1.8 billion and 6.9 percent, higher than was collected during the same period last fiscal year.

A spokesman for Wolf told KYW Newsradio the governor is “proud of the collaborative work done with the General Assembly to balance the budget.”

Despite the positive news, Republicans warned against the temptation to spend the excess revenues. Instead, they urged building up the state’s reserves to prepare for a rainy day.

“This is not the time to change the course,” state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, said. “There will be, certainly, a lot of people in this building and outside this building will come to this building and say, ‘You know what? Now that you have money, you need to spend it on this, you need to spend it on that.’

“And that certainly will be the temptation,” Corman, the Senate majority leader, added. “But I will caution everyone that we are still about 48th or 49th in the nation in reserves. And, if we want to put ourselves in a position to have this growth continue, we need to be cautious in our spending.”

 

The Center Square Contributor