Each spring, the Senate Appropriations Committee holds a series of hearings to closely examine the governor’s budget proposal. This year’s hearings were among the most noteworthy in recent memory based on what we learned.

Over the next several years, the governor’s own math shows $14 billion more in spending than the state expects to collect in revenues – but the true number could be much, much worse.

Pennsylvania government already spends more than a billion dollars a year more than it takes in. Under the governor’s plan, that gap would grow to nearly $4 billion in the years ahead. All told, the spending plan would spend $14 billion more than we take in – and that’s if we trust the governor’s math.

Unfortunately, the governor’s budget math doesn’t add up. On the revenue side, the governor is assuming the state will collect nearly $8 billion more than the non-partisan Independent Fiscal Office projects.

Shapiro’s budget also predicts growth in human services costs of just $500 million a year, when historic averages typically show that number closer to $1 billion. He’s projecting flat funding for most major educational programs, when we know they’ll require more money based on inflationary costs alone.

Using realistic projections, Shapiro’s budget would likely eliminate the state’s fund balance and emergency savings (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) in just two years.

When Senate Republicans raised the alarm that Governor Shapiro’s budget would drain our reserves within the next two years, he told the press we were “flat-out wrong.” However, an estimate from the non-partisan Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) showed we were flat-out right – projecting that we will have to consider new taxes, deep service cuts, or both just two short years from now.

The IFO estimates also show a cumulative $24 billion shortfall by the end of the five-year planning period. That’s no small potatoes in a $48 billion budget.

Why does this matter to the average Pennsylvanian?

Shapiro’s spending plan means massive deficits in 2027 and beyond. IFO Director Matt Knittel confirmed what happens next: large tax increases, deep service cuts, or both.

We also lose the financial benefits this money brings to Pennsylvania. We’ve earned around $800 million in interest from our reserves over the past several years. Credit rating upgrades saved taxpayers almost $100 million in debt service costs from the last bond sale alone.

This isn’t money “just sitting in some bank account.” We see real, tangible benefits from it. Proposing to squander it in a few short years is dangerously irresponsible and short-sighted.

Even Governor Shapiro’s own budget shows we can’t afford his K-12 education funding goals.

In January, the Shapiro Administration’s representatives on the Basic Education Funding Commission sided with Democrats in setting a goal of increasing K-12 education spending by more than a billion dollars per year for the next several years.

However, Governor Shapiro’s actual budget shows ZERO growth in Basic Education funding after next year. If the governor is serious about spending $7 billion more on education, he needs to get serious about explaining how Pennsylvanians will afford it.

The governor’s higher education merger plan is not ready for primetime.

We all acknowledge the need to change our approach to higher education, and post-secondary education in general.

Governor Shapiro wants to merge the state’s community colleges with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Unfortunately, the governor did not include PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein in that planning process, leading to numerous unanswered questions.

Even the Secretary of Education could not offer much clarity. What would the new governance model look like? What would happen to local funding streams for community colleges? How would the new performance-based funding system work? No answers.

The Secretary of Education himself characterized the plan as “not bill-ready” and “wet cement.” That certainly doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence from lawmakers.

I played a leading role in the last PASSHE system redesign in 2019, and that process took multiple years to complete. With so many details still missing, it is completely unrealistic and impractical to think we could create an entirely new higher ed system between now and June 30 without creating more problems than we solve.

We can find a better way to meet the Commonwealth’s needs.

There are serious deficiencies in Governor Shapiro’s budget, but we can still work together to achieve our shared goals.

We can find ways to add accountability to our K-12 education system, fund environmental repairs for schools, and provide meaningful choice options for parents of students in failing or dangerous learning environments.

We can strengthen post-secondary education options by tailoring education programs to the needs of the workforce, supporting workforce development, and providing affordable job pathways through career and technical education.

Most importantly, we can make Pennsylvania a magnet for jobs and investment by slashing government red tape, improving our tax structure to attract new employers, and avoiding the kind of overspending that has doomed other states.

Senator Scott Martin serves as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which plays a key role in developing the state budget. He is currently serving his second term representing the 13th Senatorial District, including parts of Lancaster and Berks counties. He stays engaged with the community on Facebook, X and Instagram

One thought on “Sen. Scott Martin: Budget hearings highlight Shapiro budget’s threats to our fiscal stability”

  1. Respectfully, conservative voters should not trust Senator Scott Martin for the same reason they shouldn’t trust any other uniparty functionary. The senator is very good at finding opportunities to raise his profile, and he talks a big game because doing so supports his lofty political aspirations. But, the truth is, unless there is something in it for him, he doesn’t have the courage or character to actually do anything of value for conservative voters.

    I know first-hand, because Senator Martin and other Republican “leaders” in Pennsylvania abandoned me and every other conservative family by failing to hold public officials and lawyers accountable for their unlawful conduct during the Covid years. Broad + Liberty covered my story, which involves public school officials in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District and their lawyers who lied and filed a false affidavit in an official proceeding before the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records in which Martin was involved as a party. To be crystal clear, Scott Martin and other Republican “leaders” have evidence demonstrating that public officials lied and covered up serious misconduct, but rather than expose it and push for legislation to make sure it never happens again, they looked the other way. Perhaps Broad + Liberty could take a closer look at why the senator and other Republican “leaders” abandoned conservative families both during and after the COVID debacle. If we can’t trust them to stand up in those circumstances, why should we trust them with anything?

    Of course the Governor’s budget is bloated and irresponsible. But is Martin really telling us anything new? There aren’t many fiscally sane people in either political party these days. The more important question for the senator is, “other than talking about it, what are you and your colleagues actually going to do about it?” Read his article again. Do you see a vision for the future or even the outlines of a plan? As importantly, is there anything in his article that makes you believe the senator and the other members of his caucus will wake up to the realities of the new political world, take the gloves off, and actually start fighting? We all know the answer.

    If you are a conservative voter, don’t be duped by people like this. They’re angling for higher office and pandering for votes. That’s it. People like the senator will let you down when they actually have the chance to stand up and do something. Just follow the money and it will be clear why that is the case.

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