Here's this week's State Capitol Roundup courtesy of state Rep. Bob Mensch (R-147):
Republican Lawmakers Question Governor's $268 Million Surplus
Figures regarding Gov. Ed Rendell's budget deficit continue to rise with recent estimates at the $2.3 billion dollar mark. Despite the deficit, House Republicans stressed this week that the governor has amassed as much as $268 million in unspent money from previous years and pledged only to dedicate $101 million to help put the state back in the black. The presence of "unlapsed" funds is not entirely legal; Rendell's three most recent predecessors showed balances near zero across the board, but in the past five years, balances surpassed the $150 million mark. This week, Rendell warned of potential layoffs of as many as 2,000 state workers and reductions in working hours, while House Democrats hinted at tax increases to address the budget shortfall. GOP lawmakers have consistently fought against tax hikes in the state and will seek to enact cost-cutting measures before any such increase is agreed to. The House will convene at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 4, to hear the governor's annual budget address.
House Republican Task Force Holds Hearings on Budgeting Strategies
The House Republican Policy Committee's Budget and Economic Policy Task Force held two hearings this week with discussions ranging from zero-based budgeting to the governor's 2004 Business Tax Reform Commission's recommendations. GOP lawmakers would like to use some of the commission's recommendations to make Pennsylvania more competitive with other states in attracting family-sustaining jobs to the state. With the state's tax revenue continuing to slump, several lawmakers have looked toward a practice known as performance-based budgeting, a strategy used to prioritize funding for proven programs with solid results, as a solution. For more information on how House Republicans are working for Pennsylvanians, visit PAHouseGOP.com
Several House Republicans Offer Taxpayer Protection Measures
More than a dozen House Republicans gathered on the steps of the Capitol Rotunda this week to offer suggestions on how to address Gov. Ed Rendell's $2.3 billion budget crisis. Opting to avoid tax increases and protect taxpayers, the lawmakers were led by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) in calling for the enactment of a state budget that includes no new taxes, no new spending and no new borrowing. Also, proposals for state spending limits were aired. Another plan, which has gained momentum following recent reports of fraud and waste at the Department of Public Welfare, calls for the agency to shed 10 percent of its budget. Auditor General Jack Wagner recently found errors in more than 1,600 cases, about 14 percent of enrollments, costing as much as $3.3 million.