On behalf of the National Taxpayers Union's 16,000 members in Pennsylvania, I urge you to support and strengthen the Constitutional limits contained in Senate Bill 884 and House Bill 2067 and to support Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 2082, both of which would provide statutory spending protections for taxpayers. There is no doubt that current rates of spending growth cannot continue unchecked.
State government spending over the last two years increased by more than $450 for every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth. In total, Pennsylvania spends more than $16,700 per family of four -- or $1,800 more than it did in 2003, when Ed Rendell became Governor. The high taxes needed to pay for this spending have contributed mightily to the state's abysmal economic performance indicators during the last two years in which Pennsylvania ranked 38th in the nation in job growth, 41st in personal income growth, and 45th in population growth. Yet in real per capita state spending, it ranked 2nd in the nation in the 1990s, trailing only Mississippi.
Although these bills represent some progress with regard to spending restraint, they must be strengthened in three ways to provide the real protections taxpayers need:
- A voter referendum should be held to override the spending limit (the Senate version does require a 2/3 majority of the General Assembly, but taxpayers should have the final say);
- There should be no exceptions to these limits except when the Governor or President declares a state of emergency (the House version has major exceptions that would render the limits meaningless);
- Tax revenue surpluses should be prudently managed under a specific formula with 75 percent being returned to taxpayers and 25 percent deposited in the state's Rainy Day Fund.
Efforts to place Constitutional limits on state spending are by no means radical or even unusual. In fact, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states now operate under either tax or expenditure limitations. As a significant step forward in restraining spending, I urge you to support and strengthen these pieces of legislation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Paul J. Gessing
Director of Government Affairs