Did you know I published an open letter on Christmas Eve to the Governor and the Legislature of Pennsylvania? If not, please read it below:
It is Christmas Eve and about a week before the New Year and we still do not have a Commonwealth budget. Yes, there is a budget on the Governor’s desk, but it is anyone’s guess what the Governor will do. My best guess is that he will use a line item veto, which he should have done with the first budget he was given.
As a County Commissioner, I am struggling to understand why this continues to be unresolved. Taxpayers and businesses across the Commonwealth continue to pay their taxes on time and the Commonwealth continues to collect them and spend them. The federal program dollars are still flowing to the Commonwealth. The money is there, in Harrisburg, but is not being distributed to the local level as it is intended.
Berks County alone is now owed over $22,660,000.00 by the Commonwealth. As the past Board Chair and Past President of the County Commissioners Association of PA, I know that many counties are out of money and others are being forced to borrow money to provide core services. Is the Commonwealth going to cover the borrowing cost for counties and non-profits or do you once again expect local property taxpayers to foot the bill?
It appears to me that counties, local governments, schools, students, children, seniors and non-profits have become the second class citizens in this battle and that is simply wrong. State citizens continue to go without funding because the Commonwealth is failing to live up to its obligations.
In the end, the taxpayers of Pennsylvania will be left holding the bag while the politicians make excuses and point fingers.
The single biggest mistake in this entire fiasco was the failure of Governor Wolf to use the line item veto in the first budget. He could have brought clear focus to the debate. Instead he failed to be the leader by throwing out an entire budget, even though about two-thirds of the budget contained exactly what he asked for, or more.
Let’s hope he learned a lesson and at least uses the line-item veto now.
It really is pretty simple. All the debate and negotiating should have been taking place last spring shortly after Governor Wolf announced his budget. Waiting to negotiate until the budget deadline passed was foolish at best and criminal at the worst.
It is time to end the impasse!
Let me suggest some changes for now and the future so that this spectacle does not occur again:
- NOW – If you cannot agree on everything let’s at least go back and pass the aspects’ of the budget on which there is agreement. That is why Pennsylvania Governors have the power of the line item veto. Use it.
- Pass a law that states that no Legislator, Governor or Secretary shall receive any compensation, including expenses, until a budget is passed and signed.
- Change the budget cycle to a calendar year. This will match with most local government budget cycles and provide certainty in the local budget planning process. Currently many counties and local governments are forced to guess what the last six months of their revenue from the state will be because they are on difference cycles.
I certainly understand that public service is not an easy job. I also realize that the complexity of passing a budget at the state level is much greater then what we have at the local level, but that is no excuse for the situation that taxpayers, local governments, schools, students, seniors and non-profits find themselves today.
One of our major providers is Bethany Children’s home. They serve some of the neediest children in our county and they are almost out money, including their line of credit. Punishing an organization like Bethany for the failure of state government is just plain wrong.
It’s time to govern.
Christian Y. Leinbach Commissioner/Chair Berks County
633 Court Street
Reading, PA 19601
Please share with your family and friends across Pennsylvania.
Christian Leinbach Chair/Berks County Commissioners