Archive

ShareThis Page
State leaders give input on budget woes at Pittsburgh meeting | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

State leaders give input on budget woes at Pittsburgh meeting

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, November 25, 2014 12:01 a.m

State Rep. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township, said he made an unsettling observation when he took his seat in Harrisburg five years ago.

To Dunbar, a certified public accountant, Pennsylvania’s budget process relied too heavily on past allocations and across-the-board increases or decreases “without any consideration whatsoever of what we were accomplishing with those dollars.”

Dunbar’s remarks Monday in Carnegie Music Hall echoed a common sentiment at the annual meeting of the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership: It’s time to embrace a renewed era of “outcome-based” budgeting. Pressure is mounting on public and nonprofit entities to demonstrate proof of return on investment.

“We, as a sector, need to really be able to look at the value of communicating our outcomes,” said Samantha Balbier, executive director of the partnership, a coalition of more than 350 nonprofit and corporate members in the region.

Dunbar joined three fellow lawmakers on a panel discussion that anchored the meeting, which focused on what’s to come once Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes office.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, stressed that getting the state on a path toward fiscal stability is his priority — particularly on the heels of credit downgrades by ratings agencies. The Independent Fiscal Office projects a $1.85 billion budget shortfall for 2015. This year’s budget is $29.1 billion.

Costa and state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, said they will push to shield from cuts to the state’s two biggest spending areas — education and human services — and instead work with the Wolf administration to rally Republican support for new revenue. Wolf, a millionaire businessman from York, campaigned on establishing a severance tax on natural gas drillers; closing corporate tax loopholes; and increasing the personal income tax rate.

“You can’t tax everything to death,” said state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler.

Wheatley said he wants the state to focus on structural budget changes rather than short-term fixes.

“People have lost faith in their government really doing anything for them, and I think we can restore that faith by allowing this new administration to come to the table with us and look at (the budget) from a systematic perspective,” Wheatley said.

Dunbar, co-chair on the bicameral Government Reform Caucus, praised Wolf for announcing that a gift ban that applies to his appointees and executive branch employees will be among his first official acts as governor.

“Now we have to get behind (Wolf) and see if we can work on the same page as him,” Vulakovich said. He noted that gridlock plagued the Legislature even with a Republican governor and GOP majorities in both houses.

“It’s all about egos,” Vulakovich said, “and we need to get away from that.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8514 or nlindstrom@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.