Growth of govern­ment spend­ing

The Review - - OPINION - By Sen. Mike Folmer Guest Colum­nist State Sen. Mike Folmer is a Repub­li­can who rep­re­sents the 48th Se­na­to­rial District.

I’ve searched both the United States and Penn­syl­va­nia Con­sti­tu­tions and I can’t find it. Where’s it writ­ten govern­ment must grow each and ev­ery year?

Why isn’t govern­ment ex­pected to live within its means just like peo­ple and busi­nesses?

It took 51 Ses­sions of Congress to pass a $1 bil­lion bud­get — the “Bil­lion Dol­lar Congress” of 1889. The first $1 tril­lion fed­eral bud­get came in 1987. To­day, Penn­syl­va­nia spends well over $1 bil­lion on debt ser­vice alone.

In 1969, Gov. Shafer branded his pro­posed state bud­get “The Fis­cal Ru­bi­con” in call­ing for $492 mil­lion in new rev­enues: “I be­lieve his­tory will not deal kindly with a rich Na­tion that will not tax it­self to cure its own mis­eries.”

In 1970, spend­ing for a pop­u­la­tion of 11,800,766 was $357.15 per per­son.

Our cur­rent bud­get will spend $32,714,991,000 to serve a pop­u­la­tion of 12,823,989, or $2,551.08 per per­son.

Spend­ing in­creased 614% while pop­u­la­tion grew by just 9%.

Con­sider the state bud­get I op­posed my first year in of­fice: $27,160,000,000, a 4.4% in­crease over the pre­vi­ous year. When I said state govern­ment spend­ing was in­creas­ing faster than tax­pay­ers’ abil­ity to pay, Gov. Ren­dell de­clared: “He’s cer­ti­fi­able.”

In 2007, wel­fare and ed­u­ca­tion rep­re­sented two-thirds of the bud­get: Med­i­cal as­sis­tance for nurs­ing fa­cil­i­ties, phar­macy ser­vices, and man­aged care; ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing in­creased 6.2% (to $10.5 Bil­lion), in­clud­ing $5 bil­lion for ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion (a $167 mil­lion in­crease).

Spend­ing un­der the 200708 state bud­get broke down to $74,410,958 a day, $3,100,456 an hour, $51,674 per minute, and $861 each sec­ond.

Un­der the 2018-19 state bud­get, the Com­mon­wealth will spend $32,714,991,000, a 2.2% in­crease over last year: $89,630,112 a day, $3,734,588 an hour, $62,243 per minute, and $1,037 per sec­ond.

Imag­ine 10 $100 bills pass­ing through your hands ev­ery sec­ond.

That’s how much the Com­mon­wealth is spend­ing.

Ed­u­ca­tion is again a fo­cus: $100 mil­lion more for ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, $25 mil­lion more for Pre-K Counts and Head Start, and $15 mil­lion more for spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion.

School safety con­tin­ues to be a pri­or­ity, with more than $60 mil­lion in new fund­ing for school re­source of­fi­cers, se­cu­rity equip­ment, and ini­tia­tives to help pre­vent school vi­o­lence.

From my first year in of­fice un­til now, the Gen­eral Fund has in­creased by over half a bil­lion dol­lars a year — a 20.45% in­crease: from $27.1 bil­lion to $32.7 bil­lion.

Govern­ment grows when the econ­omy is good and govern­ment grows when the econ­omy is bad.

Mean­while, peo­ple must make ends meet as gas, hous­ing, food, and health care costs rise.

Un­like govern­ment, peo­ple can’t make oth­ers give them money. Only govern­ment has the power to tax.

That’s why I re­main com­mit­ted to my “Tax­payer Pro­tec­tion Act” to re­strict the growth of govern­ment by lim­it­ing spend­ing to three years’ av­er­age change in per­sonal in­come or the rate of in­fla­tion com­pared to pop­u­la­tion.

The State Govern­ment Com­mit­tee, which I chair, re­ported out a pro­posed tax­payer pro­tec­tion con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment. Full Se­nate ac­tion has not yet been taken on this pro­posal.

I also co-spon­sored leg­is­la­tion to re­quire Zero Based Bud­get­ing to jus­tify each dol­lar of spend­ing.

Agen­cies should prove the le­gal need for their ac­tions, quan­ti­ta­tively es­ti­mate ad­verse im­pacts should these ac­tiv­i­ties be dis­con­tin­ued, and item­ize each ex­pen­di­ture.

This year, the Gen­eral As­sem­bly and Gov. Wolf took a step to­ward “per­for­mance based bud­get­ing” to re­quire de­part­ments and agen­cies to jus­tify bud­get re­quests for all ex­ist­ing and pro­posed pro­grams be­fore re­ceiv­ing any fund­ing.

The goal of this new law is to bet­ter ques­tion how govern­ment money is spent and how much is spent.

Tax­pay­ers de­serve good ex­pla­na­tions when govern­ment grows and I will con­tinue to fight for an­swers and ac­count­abil­ity.

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