No matter how attractive the budget roll out looks today, PA could be in trouble in the future

February 6 — The 2025 Pennsylvania State Budget will be presented this afternoon and while some details have been dribbled out over the last few days, this will be the full picture. 

Governor Josh Shapiro will present it in the Rotunda in Harrisburg, a pretty novel occurrence. 

PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “The whole thing seems to be a production that lays the stage for him to continue his move toward national prominence. Just the idea of them having the budget address in the Rotunda, I don’t know that it’s ever been done like this. It’s quite a majestic setting. I’m certain that is precisely what they want as he rolls out his big plans to spend more and very frankly put Pennsylvania further in the hole unfortunately.”

Another push for legalization of marijuana could be included. 

Kauffman said, “They’re obviously going to be looking for new revenues because there’s plenty of ways he’s going to be able to spend all of this money in this budget proposal. Right now, today we are spending in deficit spending. We’re spending more than we are taking in, so I would certainly anticipate new revenue generators.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM wondered, “How can that be? All the news is that oh we’ve gotten all these huge collections year over year, the coffers are flush with cash. How could we be going into the hole here?”

Kauffman suggested, “It’s the way that it is presented. Yes, there has been a surplus of funDW. And yes, we do have a rainy day fund. Day in and day out here in Pennsylvania, we are spending more than we are taking in, so we are spending that down. Every day we spend in deficit, we spend those surpluses, we spend the rainy day fund down. Even independent fiscal office projections say that if we continue to spend simply at the rate of growth that we’re spending, we will be out of money by about 2027, 2028.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “That’s funny because we had all this money leftover from COVID. That’s where a lot of this money came from. So the idea that we have that much even to begin with was only because of artificial creation from the federal government. Now they want to keep all those things going along with the things that Shapiro is going to introduce.”

“Absolutely,” Kauffman confirmed. “You can be certain that the picture is going to be painted, it is going to be as rosy as it could be. It’s going to be absolutely the most beautiful picture of how Pennsylvania is doing wonderfully. I don’t want to be the naysayer and a doomsday guy, but we have some serious fiscal challenges. We have a serious fiscal cliff ahead. I think Governor Shapiro wants to rise to the national level before we hit that cliff because he doesn’t want to be driving the car as we go over it.”

One of the big questions about the budget is how will the new initiatives be funded? 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “You’re going to have tax increases and/or cuts to programs. Now there is a third option that I did not add and that’s new sources of revenue. That’s the thing to watch for today. There is source reporting overnight that part of this budget rollout today is going to include a proposal to finally regulate games of skill in Pennsylvania. This is something we’ve been talking about with our Representatives and Senators for the last couple of years. We know those skill games are everywhere you go now. He’s going to apparently make that part of his budget address today.”

The total figures for how much money those games of skill generated isn’t totally clear. 

Barkdoll said, “But presumably that would generate some revenue that would offset these costs for the PASSHE school consolidation, the $1,000 semester tuition. It sounds like he’s also going to make a big funding pitch for upgrades to mass transit in Pennsylvania. So that’ll be another thing to watch today. I’m really curious to see if he formally makes a proposal related to the school funding formula? We know the general assembly has that in their hands after that Commonwealth Court decision. Does Governor Shapiro make his own proposal as this process gets moving?”