Saylor questions gloomy IFO projections, pushes for government “within its means” for 2019 budget

Saylor questions gloomy IFO projections, pushes for government “within its means” for 2019 budget

Author: Stephen Caruso/Monday, December 17, 2018/Categories: News and Views

In a statement Monday, House Appropriations Chair Stan Saylor (R-York) pointed to rosy revenue numbers, a projected surplus from Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and previous spending overestimates from the state Independent Fiscal Office in calling for no new taxes.

“As we head into the new legislative session, the focus of the House Republican Caucus will be on creating a budget that does not rely on new taxes or fees and that supports job creation,” Saylor said in the statement.

The words follow estimates by the state’s fiscal projection agency that saw a $1.6 to $1.7 billion budget hole opening up next year. However, Saylor pointed to 2017 and 2018 budgets, where the IFO predicted $1.4 billion and $800 million more in spending than was enacted.

But what the difference reflects, according to Matt Knittel, IFO director, is the agency's model not accounting for one time measures to increase revenue or decrease costs.

He pointed to the most recent budget, which Knittel said included $1 billion in one time revenues. These can take the shape of a transfer from the Joint Underwriting Association, or savings, like shifting or delaying payments, to balance the budget.

"It is likely that some temporary measures will be employed once again for the FY 2019-20 budget, but the IFO does not include them in our projections," Knittel said.

At a mid-year budget briefing, Wolf’s outgoing Budget Secretary Randy Albright predicted the state would stay in the black for 2019, pointing to $333 million in extra revenues as of November.

The positivity came with some caution, citing that state police costs in rural areas and a hold on turnpike revenue from ongoing litigation among others could frustrate the picture.

Still, the mid-year assessment included calls for restrained state spending and a fairer tax climate for businesses, which the state’s budget hawks took as a refrain worth repeating.

“If the governor is serious about this, then House Republicans are ready to join him in that effort,” Saylor said.

At a September press club luncheon, Wolf said he “didn’t have any plans to raise taxes.” A spokesperson for the governor, newly reelected to another four year term, declined to comment.

Stephen Caruso is the Harrisburg bureau chief at The PLS Reporter. Have a question, comment or tip? Email him at stephen@mypls.com or call at 845-891-4306.
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