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Baker: Revamp budgeting

Pa. senator says budget process is flawed and needs an overhaul.

HARRISBURG – State Sen. Lisa Baker says the bottom line is the state budget process needs to be changed.

“I view this as serious reform,” Baker said. “Our goal must be to meet our constitutional deadline and produce a balanced budget by July 1 that reflects taxpayer priorities.”

She said she is convinced this year’s 101-day state budget impasse warrants constructive action to fix a flawed process. She has proposed an amendment to the state Constitution to prevent a shutdown of state services, and legislation containing a series of deadlines for action to compel adoption of a state budget on time.

Baker, R-Lehman Township, has proposed two bills:

• Senate Bill 1152 would prevent a shutdown of state services by amending the Constitution to maintain state appropriations at 80 percent if a budget is not enacted by June 30.

• Senate Bill 1153 would compel action to adopt a budget by imposing timelines.

“They’re common-sense proposals,” Baker said. “We have to prevent a shutdown of state services; that’s a crucial component of my legislation. It’s more than laying people off. I’m concerned about people being leveraged – possibly harmed – during a budget stalemate. The last thing I want to see is vulnerable people harmed during a budget stalemate.”

Baker said there may never be another revenue disaster comparable to this year’s $3.25 billion shortfall, but Pennsylvanians should not have to run that risk.

“A prolonged budget crisis is unfair to taxpayers and to individuals dependent on state help, disruptive to state-funded and state-subsidized service providers, and toxic to public confidence in state government,” Baker said.

Baker said Sen. Pat Brown, R-Lehigh Valley, is sponsoring Senate Bill 1, which would establish a legislative fiscal office that would be nonpartisan and consist of members with expertise in fiscal matters.

“One of the challenges this year was getting revenue estimates,” Baker said. “The governor’s budget office does all that. This new fiscal office would have the same access to agency and department financial information that the governor’s budget office has.”

Baker’s bills will be assigned to a committee in the Senate, and she hopes to have them presented to the full Senate for debate.

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