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Pa.’s population shrinkage: Better budgeting needed

Among the New Year’s hangovers awaiting Pennsylvania leaders is this painful revelation from the U.S. Census Bureau: The state’s population shrunk for the first time in 31 years.

Based on the latest census figures, the state’s population dropped by more than 7,600 residents over the past year. And between July 2015 and July 2016, almost 46,000 Pennsylvanians left the state — or about one person every 11.5 minutes, according to the Commonwealth Foundation.

This is not exactly a national trend: Pennsylvania is one of only eight states to lose population over the 12-month period. Where are people going? To states with lower tax burdens than Pennsylvania, such as North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Nevada and Idaho. Utah, which saw its population surpass 3 million last year, is the nation’s fastest-growing state.

Reducing Pennsylvania’s tax burden, for businesses and individuals, begins by curbing state spending, which in Harrisburg is far more easier said then done. What’s needed, as House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, suggests, is a re-evaluation of the state’s budget structure.

“Government has basically looked the same in Pennsylvania for the last 40, 50 years,” Reed says. “We just go through the budget each year. … We want the budget to look different this year.”

Rather than just another New Year’s resolution, a fresh look at state budgeting should be lawmakers’ goal in 2017. Or money won’t be the only deficit facing Pennsylvania.


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