Monday, July 23, 2007

Is this any way to pass a state budget?

Common Cause/Pennsylvania issued the following press release today urging lawmakers to clean up the process of passing a state budget. Except for Gov. Ed Rendell and the doormat Democrats in the state Legislature, nobody is happy with how Pennsylvania decides how to spend $60 billion each year. Read on:

HARRISBURG - Government reform groups representing the entire political spectrum converged at the state capitol Monday insisting that state officials improve the process for developing and passing the annual state budget. Noting that timely passage of the state budget has become a rare occurrence, Common Cause/PA Vice Chair for Issues, Sandra Christianson, called the current budget process "a sheer disaster" and carries the potential to unnecessarily inflict havoc throughout the state.

The organization reissued its proposal to require a disciplined methodical system for creating, reviewing, modifying and voting on the annual general appropriations bill. The citizens' lobby proposal calls for enacting a statute that would establish :

  • a systemic process for creating and passing the annual state budget;
  • a mandatory timetable for essential budgeting activities;
  • penalties for failing to meet required essential deadlines;
  • automatic continuation of the prior year’s budget if the June 3oth enactment deadline is missed; coupled with salary forfeiture for the Governor, cabinet secretaries and all legislators until a new budget is enacted; and
  • requirements that budget deliberations be subject to the Sunshine law.

Christianson stated that this proposal, which the organization originally presented in 1991, places the burdens and penalties for failure to achieve timely enactment of the state budget on the shoulders of the responsible elected officials instead of on innocent taxpayers, state workers and citizens. She also noted that had the Common Cause proposed system been in place this year, there would have been no furloughs of state workers, parks and museums would have remained open, road maintenance work would have continued uninterrupted, and other vital services such as those that elderly and disabled people depend on would not have been threatened.

"The time for excuses and finger-pointing is over. The time for fixing the budget process is long-overdue. It is time to stop holding the people of Pennsylvania hostage over political gain and gamesmanship. It is time to impose discipline on the budget process, and to penalize the officials who ignore the law and their responsibilities instead of the law-abiding taxpayers and citizens of this Commonwealth," Christianson said.

The reform group plans to deliver copies of the reformed budget process to legislative leaders today. Common Cause/PA officials indicated they believe the environment may now be right for the legislature to tackle this problem which annually afflicts Pennsylvania.

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