Going into the new year, my mantra is to take Pennsylvania from a good state to a great state. To that end, we in the General Assembly must build upon the achievements of 2019 and take advantage of the abundance of opportunity within Pennsylvania.
The General Assembly tackled some hard issues in 2019 and found solutions to problems facing many Pennsylvanians. We passed bills to facilitate growth in our agriculture industry, enhance access to medical care, remove barriers to treatment, and improve access to behavioral health. Additionally, we passed bills to improve state operations by repealing out-of-date laws, reexamined the effectiveness of a variety of state boards and commissions, identified opportunities to reduce costs, and cut red tape.
The House also led the charge in the arena of improving workforce development. For too long, Pennsylvania’s workers haven’t been prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. With this understanding, the House focused efforts on our students, dedicating resources and aligning programing to create opportunities for successful career paths. The result is a series of well-thought-out bills, including Act 76 of 2019, formerly House Bill 265
. The law enhances job training and workforce development, while also providing high school and college students with access to information regarding the transfer policies of other educational institutions, with the goal being to save them time and money.
While this bill package is a monumental first step, more work awaits us in 2020. Far too many of our youth continue to leave the Commonwealth for better opportunities and its incumbent on us to foster a climate that enables those opportunities to exist within the borders of our state.
Because of our budget chicanery, we annually concoct a tax, fee and shift plan, squeezing businesses and residents at every conceivable angle, to cover the state’s perpetual runaway spending. This contributes to the root issue of Pennsylvania’s economic livelihood – predictability. The lack of predictability in conducting business in Pennsylvania – from taxes to regulations – leads to businesses’ that are unwilling to take risks and invest in our state. Rather, the businesses that would attract and retain our young workers are going elsewhere and taking our young workforce with them.
As you can see, a lot of the problems Pennsylvanians face are all connected. It leads back to how state government spends tax revenue, which is your money. No tax dollar collected, held or spent by state government belongs to the government. The money belongs to the people who entrust elected officials to be fair stewards of their money.
With this in mind, I was joined by fellow representatives to unveil a package of legislation to strengthen the state’s fiscal management. In order to rein in shadow spending through special funds, which aren’t accounted for in the General Fund, my House Bill 1991
seeks to amend the Commonwealth’s Constitution to prevent the creation or use of special funds.
This form of offline spending, in use for a long time, is simply disingenuous to taxpayers. For example, during the 2017-18 fiscal year, General Fund expenditures were $31.9 billion out of the Commonwealth’s total operating budget of $84 billion. That’s right, less than half of state spending was accounted for in the General Fund.
We must have better oversight on how tax dollars are spent. Pennsylvania must prepare for the future and must right the fiscal ship. Sadly, we collectively ignore our true economic position, we lack discipline and we fail to narrowly focus on our core resources that could chart a course to prosperity like none we’ve ever seen in this state. Opportunity is knocking - we just refuse to take off the headphones humming with special interest rhetoric and open the door.
It is my hope and goal that we continue to chart this course for Pennsylvania in 2020. The House is positioned well to take on these challenges if we remain focused on the end goal of improving the lives of Pennsylvanians by decreasing the role of state government in their lives.
Representative Dawn Keefer
92nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross