CLARION - "It is the same conundrum I have faced since I have been in office," said Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-63) the House Republican Whip. "If you do not have sufficient revenue for your budget you are looking at program cuts or increased taxes."
Referring to the Republican majority in the state House of Representative, Oberlander added, "That is where we have significant differences with the governor. We have some concerns over the governor's priorities, especially the taxes.
"We are not at the point of having a proposal of our own yet. It is very unlikely the governor's tax plan be included in the Republican plan."
The Republicans have not yet revealed their plan for the new state budget.
"This is a typical process. The governor makes his pitch and budget requests," Oberlander explained. "Those are his priorities and then we have three weeks of hearings. We are just in the process where the House and Senate appropriations committees will be doing the hearings."
Oberlander aid the hearing are intended to determine what is working and what is not working.
"After those hearings we will take a look at changes we would like to make," said Oberlander. "We are not at that point yet. We are doing our due diligence in looking at our revenues and what the needs are."
Oberlander said she and her fellow House Republicans are want to develop a budget that does not include any tax increases.
"It is the general consensus in our caucus that we need to live within our means just like all of the people at home," said Oberlander. "That is our starting point. I would be premature to say this is where the money is coming from or this is where we are spending it."
The federal government did supply a significant amount of aid to the state in 2020 and addition funds are anticipated for 2021.
"Last year was a very unusual year," Oberlander said. "Because of COVID, last year was incredibly challenging. The federal dollars did help to offset some of those concerns but we are never certain how much federal help to expect or where it can be spent."
If the state is to increase revenues without raising taxes another answer has to be found.
"In order for us to have a budget that is balanced and is able to take care of our priorities we have to get our economy back in gear," Oberlander said. "We have to allow people to be safe and work. Those are some of the things we are going to be concentrating on."
Oberlander said one key goal is getting the COVID vaccine distributed.
"We need to have the vaccine distributed to those who want it so our kids can get back to school and employers can get their employees back to work," said Oberlander. "I am hopeful that increases the revenue and we can balance our budget."
Oberlander said the Republican budget proposals should be ready in mid-March.
Pennsylvania's budget that was just finished in November was balanced.
"We are required to law to adopt a balanced budget. You will hear them talk about a structural deficit and they use that term for funds that are coming from elapsed funds which is money that was not used in prior budgets or money from the federal government," said Oberlander. "We can't print more money and we can't go into a deficit. Whatever budget we pass, whether it is a Republican budget or a Democrat budget or a compromise, it will require 102 votes in the House and 26 in the Senate and a governor who is willing to sign it."