In response to years of otherwise unchecked spending growth, Pennsylvania State Rep. Tim Krieger (R-Delmont) is proposing the Taxpayer Protection Act, a bill amending the Pennsylvania Constitution to connect future budget growth to changes in monetary inflation and population growth in the state.
High Tax Burdens
Commonwealth Foundation Vice President of Policy Analysis Nathan Benefield, says that the state’s spending growth has far exceeded the rate of inflation and economic growth over the last four decades.
“According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvanians labor under the tenth-highest state and local tax burden in the country,” Benefield said. “Total state government spending, adjusting for inflation, has increased by approximately $13,800 per family of four since 1970.”
“Despite rapid spending growth, Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom in every measure of economic growth,” Benefield said. Since 1992, Pennsylvania has lost 251,467 taxpayers in net migration to other states—taking with them $8.3 billion million annual income.”
Rep. Krieger says his bill encourages fiscal restraint, but leaves room for emergency spending increases.
“The Taxpayer Protection Act is necessary to create structural discipline for government budgeting and spending, and to enshrine that discipline into the law,” Krieger said. “My bill would permit spending over the cap only in certain defined circumstances, and only with a super-majority vote of the General Assembly.”
Krieger says the bill would reduce special-interest groups’ influence over how Pennsylvania spends taxpayers’ money.
“The positive impact from this proposal would be to reduce the continual pressure from interest groups and the Left for increased spending and increased taxes to pay for that spending,” he said. “It would force the legislative branch to push through the hard work of setting and resetting priorities.”
Krieger says his bill will also force lawmakers to compromise on discretionary spending.
“Too often, the option to increase spending, and consequently revenues, is the easy way out. Working to build a public consensus around spending priorities is much harder.”
Rudy Takala ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.
James M. Poterba and Kim S. Rueben, “Fiscal Rules and State Borrowing Costs: Evidence from California and Other States,” Public Policy Institute of California, https://heartland.org/policy-documents/fiscal-rules-and-state-borrowing-costs-evidence-california-and-other-states/