House Appropriations Republican Chairman Seth Grove, R-York, held a news conference last week where he outlined House Republicans’ priorities in upcoming budget negotiations and said the governor’s plan to draw more than $2 billion from the state’s $6 billion surplus “masks the reality” of a $2 billion structural deficit within the budget – something he stressed should be addressed sooner rather than later before it gets worse. He said the amount of pandemic-era federal aid is the reason for the high surplus and replenished rainy-day fund. Assuming spending continues to grow at 6 percent (which he assumes is a more realistic figure than Gov. Shapiro’s projections), Grove said that the deficit could top $10 billion in five years.
Grove was also skeptical of Shapiro’s plan to move nearly $932 million into a special fund for the Pennsylvania State Police where the General Assembly would have little control over its spending – a move that also allowed the governor to claim a lower percentage increase in spending for the upcoming Fiscal Year and something that Grove said is “bad for transparency.”
In response to Grove’s comments, Shapiro spokesperson Manuel Bonder said Shapiro’s proposal is a commonsense plan that provides solutions to the most pressing needs of Pennsylvania residents. “In keeping with the governor’s track record of fiscally responsible leadership, this budget is built around conservative revenue estimates – using projections that are $3 billion lower over the next five years than those of the always-cautious Independent Fiscal Office,” Bonder said.
Bonder added: “The governor looks forward to working with the Democratic-led House and the Republican-led Senate to deliver on these commonsense solutions for all Pennsylvanians.”