Dear Gov. Wolf, State Legislators, and State Senate,
You've had your fun with the annual budget circus, but as the Inquirer notes ("School officials slam Pa. budget stalemate," by Caitlin McCabe 8/19), school is getting ready to start and the schools need to know what their budgets are.
To put it in blunt terms, it is time for you to stop farting around and get down to business.
Here are my personal thoughts on the budget:
Fund the public schools. Think you're spending a little too much money there? Too bad. Let's see what we can cut from the legislature's budget, tax credits for marcellus shale, special jackets for the state health dept, and so on.
Want to privatize liquor stores? Sure, just find another revenue stream to replace the lost income from the state stores. I don't drink alcohol and could provide you boatloads of statistics on the social harms caused by it. You could shut them all down as far as I'm concerned. Carrie Nation had a good point.
Pension reform? I'm sure the employees of the state would be happy to follow any example the state government would care to set. Note this excerpt from "Pennsylvania public pension dilemma rooted in 1990's," by Madison Ross, TribLive 6/15/2014:
Before 9/11 sent financial markets tumbling, the pension funds for public employees were overfunded. In May that year, lawmakers and former Gov. Tom Ridge passed Act 9 of 2001 to raise benefits for employees by about 25 percent, in the future and retroactively.
The law required employees to contribute more to help cover costs. It gave lawmakers a 50 percent pension boost.
So I would expect them to take the lead in reducing benefits as well. Whatever reductions or changes they pass for state employees and teachers I would expect them to double for themselves.
But first and foremost -- fund the public schools.
That's my initial budget rant.