News & Brews March 8, 2024

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State budget hearing end … about where they began?

PennLive reports, “Pennsylvania’s legislative budget hearings ended Thursday largely as they had begun two-and-a-half weeks ago – with Senate Republicans criticizing expansionary social spending and Senate Democrats advocating for it….” The story notes, “Republicans believe it would be irresponsible to spend down Pennsylvania’s budgetary surplus and reserves as fast as Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed; Democrats, conversely, believe it would be irresponsible to not use the money now to help Pennsylvanians and keep a strong economy going.” (Of course, Dems want new recurring spending, and reserves only last so long, so…. cue tax hikes?)

Game Commission will not renew taxpayer-funded lobbying contract

Recently, I shared that the Pennsylvania Game Commission was under scrutiny for its $10,000-per-month hiring of a lobbying firm headed by former Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati. Well yesterday, news came out that after the criticism, the commission will not renew the contract. The commission’s executive director reportedly “said he decided to end the contract after fielding questions and concerns from lawmakers during a recent budget hearing about the propriety of a state agency using public dollars on private lobbyists.” Other agencies should follow suit.

$1.49 billion in corporate welfare in Gov. Shapiro’s proposed budget

According to a Commonwealth Foundation analysis, Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed 2024-2025 budget includes “a total of $1.49 billion in corporate welfare spending, or government funds directed at specific industries.” While this is a decrease from last year’s $1.58 billion, “Shapiro adds funding for several new corporate welfare programs with higher long-term costs.” And while these corporate handouts are pitched as ways to improve the economy, “Corporate welfare programs do not improve the business climate, and most tax credits return less than 25 cents per dollar spent.”

Now v. later spending at Pa. budget hearing

At yesterday’s budget hearing with the Governor’s office, lawmakers pressed for answers on Shapiro’s plan to use one-time funds in Pennsylvania’s “Rainy Day” account for billions of new annual spending. (It’s kind of like if I claimed I could afford a $1,000-per-month car payment for the next five years when I have $5,000 in savings and very little extra monthly income.) Senate Republicans pointed out that that Shapiro’s plan could lead to “a $24 billion unaccounted-for bill that will come due for taxpayers by 2028.” (You can also see highlights from the House hearing here.)

President Biden heading to Philly today 

Fresh off last night’s State of the Union, President Biden is scheduled to hold a campaign event in Strath Haven Middle School in Delaware County today. The Inquirer reports, “It will be Biden’s fourth stop in eastern Pennsylvania this year…. The region is vital for Biden in a state where the smallest shifts could determine the outcome. The area has contributed significant votes to Democratic statewide candidates in recent elections.”

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