GOP Budget The Right Medicine

Lancaster New Era

An austere state budget proposal, approved by the Republican-led House on Tuesday, 109-82, along party lines, elicited the predictable and less than sympathetic response from Democrats.

While Republicans praised the $27.3 billion spending plan for its fiscal restraint and absence of new taxes, Democrats predicted dire consequences from the cuts in government programs that would result.

The problem, the Democrats say, is that the GOP budget hurts “real people.” The budget, they say, would devastate human services and education in the commonwealth.

Democrats, no doubt, are referring to those who derive direct benefits from government programs &tstr; as opposed to the rest of taxpayers who must foot the bill.

Democrats were quick to criticize the GOP budget, but they did so without offering a plan of their own.

During the floor debate, Democrats not only were mum on an alternative proposal, they didn’t even attempt to amend the GOP bill.

Instead, they made a desperate attempt to send the GOP legislation back to committee or have it tabled.

All they really did was complain &tstr; and complain loudly &tstr; about the GOP plan.

“We cannot attract businesses without a well-educated work force, and cutting education hampers the state’s ability to grow,” warned Democratic Rep. Tim Briggs, of Montgomery County, predicting higher school taxes, higher tuition costs and larger class sizes.

Democrats did offer a suggestion. They want to use higher-than-expected state revenue collections to ease the pain of the GOP cutbacks.

But they wrongly view this revenue as a “windfall.” There can be no such thing as a windfall when state government is faced with a $4 billion shortfall.

Republicans, meanwhile, say their proposal is a responsible approach at a time of economic uncertainty.

“We listened, and we put together a responsible budget that did not put a tax burden on our families and our businesses,” said Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The GOP spending plan mirrors Gov. Tom Corbett’s, but it cuts hundreds of millions from the Department of Public Welfare to restore some of the governor’s education cuts.

Democrats may have viewed as futile any attempt to offer their own budget or alter the GOP’s proposal, given the strength of the Republican majority in the House.

But surely Pennsylvanians deserved more from Democrats than ad hominem attacks on Republicans’ motives. Despite what Democrats say, the House budget still would provide billions for education, welfare and other state needs.

The GOP proposal now goes to the Republican-led Senate, where legislative leaders of both parties will negotiate a final budget with the Corbett administration.

Republicans in Washington have said, “Government spends too much, it doesn’t tax too little,” and the same applies to Harrisburg. (State spending increased at twice the rate of inflation in the eight years that Democratic Ed Rendell was governor.)

Republicans are offering a budget proposal that is painful, but it is necessary medicine for an ailing patient.

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