Sunday, April 04, 2010

Todd Elliott Koger Position Paper: Top Priorities 2010 Election -- Pennsylvania deserves a budget by June 30 . . . sooner would be even better!

After last year's debacle -- the framework was adopted 101 days late and final details weren't completed until six months past due -- Pennsylvanians are out of patience and eager to see a budget delivered on time!

Reducing the size of the Pennsylvania Legislature raises interesting questions in these difficult economic times. This year, legislators were months behind schedule on their most important job of the year -- adopting a budget. In all of their futile attempts, the main topic of conversation was cutting programs and services.
Todd Elliott Koger a 2010 candidate for the Pennsylvania House (District 24) is ready for a political tussle over: (1) allocations for basic education; (2) whether and how Pennsylvania will tax methane from the potentially lucrative Marcellus Shale formation; and (3) future shortfalls due to federal stimulus funding ending in 2011 and increasing pension demands.

Getting started well ahead of the June 30 deadline is smart. But, just punting the budget to the Senate early to pass along blame for any intransigence is not the answer.

In short, Pennsylvania should enact a severance tax identical to West Virginia's: 5 percent on the value of sale, plus 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet produced, rather than leasing additional state forest land for natural gas drilling.

The severance tax would produce $180 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1 and increase to nearly $530 million after five years, including 10 percent set aside for local governments (money to shore up a state treasury that faces a projected $5.6 billion gap in 2011 and 2012 resulting from spiraling public pension costs and the expiration of federal stimulus budget aid).

In addition, Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature among the 50 states. Pennsylvania also was first in the percentage of its state budget that is spent on its legislature. But, debate about reducing the size of the legislature generates interesting conversations, i.e. no one has done anything. . . .