Introducing Fiscal Facts: PA's General Fund Spending Lower than National Average

There has been a lot of talk about Pennsylvania's high rate of spending over the past few years. The facts tell a different story. General Fund spending in Pennsylvania is below the national average and has been for 18 of the last 20 years.

In the weeks leading up to Governor Corbett's budget address on March 8, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will be releasing a series of briefs shining a light on specific budget topics in what we hope is an interesting way. We launched February Fiscal Facts this week with a brief comparing the state's General Fund spending over time to the U.S. average.

Teachable moments

Brad Bumsted of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review leads the latest news on Pennsylvania tax collections with the following:

Kenneth Gailey of Midland doesn't like the idea of raising state taxes or cutting benefits.

The 50-year-old contractor, who spent 16 years as a carpenter for
PennDOT, said he believes state government can make a huge dent in an
estimated $4 billion deficit by eliminating or cutting high-end salaries
for management and making government more efficient.

'Do we need more taxes? Do we need cuts in the few benefits we have?
What we need is fewer people on the high end of that pay scale.'

Is this true? 

The Good News, Bad News on Pennsylvania's Revenue Picture

General Fund revenue collections have been doing better than expected in the past few months, with January numbers reported Tuesday showing another month of healthy receipts.

The result is a General Fund revenue surplus of $264 million for the 2010-11 Fiscal Year, which ends in June. That's good news and a positive sign of the state's slow fiscal recovery, but much bigger fiscal challenges loom large on the horizon.

Can we stop attacking people who lost their job because of the recession?

Capitolwire reports (paywall):

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said there are ways to reform unemployment compensation... Turzai said: “Without a doubt, we have to look at enrollment…We have to look at what the array of benefits are and how they compare to competing jurisdictions.” He also said he favored a “strong work-search requirement” for unemployment, echoing one of the major points made by [Governor Tom] Corbett and business organizations.

Hundreds of thousands of working- and middle-class Pennsylvanian’s lost a job in the last three years for reasons beyond their control. The more people who are out of work, the longer it takes to find a job and thus the longer the period that people remain unemployed. This is why I stress time and time again that the chief challenge in the economy right now is the scarcity of job openings relative to job seekers. Concerns over whether unemployment insurance is a disincentive to find work are just not relevant when we have four unemployed people competing for each job opening.

Welcome to Third and State

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Welcome to Third and State, a joint blog of the Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

Pennsylvania, like many other states, faces historic challenges — from ensuring that the economy brings broadly shared prosperity to working families, to addressing Pennsylvania's budget challenges in a balanced way, to implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act, to reducing poverty and strengthening Pennsylvania's schools.

With this blog, we will present sharp and timely commentary to help you better understand Pennsylvania's economy and how state budget and other policies impact the lives of people in this state. And we'll bring it to you from our perch at Third and State — across the street from the State Capitol.

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