As I sat in my seat on the House floor and listened to Gov. Tom Wolf deliver his budget address, I was shocked to hear him not only acknowledge but also learn he plans to transfer funds from “shadow budget” accounts to fund his proposed spending as part of the 2019-20 state budget.
As you may recall, I, and a group of House Republicans who are members of the Common Sense Caucus, identified large sums of taxpayer dollars sitting idle in off-line special fund accounts in 2017. We proposed using just a very small portion of surplus funds to balance the budget and alleviate calls for broad-based tax increases. At the time, we were told all the funding had already been earmarked and couldn’t be touched even though the funds we proposed using had documented substantial surplus balances for more than three years.
Fast forward to the governor’s address and he now wants to use the accounts as part of his $34.1 billion budget. Given the months of extensive work Common Sense Caucus members invested in examining Pennsylvania’s special fund accounts, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the surplus taxpayer dollars in Pennsylvania’s “shadow budget” will finally be used. State government is here to serve the people, not to act as a holdings company amassing large revenue reserves while saddling hardworking Pennsylvanians with more taxes and debt.
Though the governor claimed in his budget address that he won’t seek a tax hike as part of his budget proposal, he proposes an additional $3 billion in spending both in and outside of the General Fund Budget. His proposal fails to provide logical accounting practices to identify the source of the additional spending.
As part of his plan, the governor wants to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour this year and increase it each year until it hits $15 an hour. The truth of the matter is a little more than 2 percent of Pennsylvania’s workforce are paid minimum wage. The myth that minimum wage earners are single parents raising children is simply that, a myth. In reality, only 1 percent of minimum wage earners are single parents.
I’m for maximum wages, not artificial, government-mandated wages that trap workers. Evidence shows government-dictated wages disproportionately hurt the people they claim to be helping by reducing employment opportunities of younger, less-educated individuals and increasing cost of living expenses. Further, studies show, and history has documented, that government-dictated wages have little to no effect on poverty rates.
Additionally, the governor wants to move tipped workers to the minimum wage. As someone who worked as a waitress and a bartender, I simply cannot support this. Most people in the food service industry, and others who rely on tips as an income, make substantially more than the minimum wage. There were times when I’d make more than $200 during a single shift as a bartender. This was in the 1990s when it took many of my peers at least a few days of work to earn that much. Should these valued workers be moved to the minimum wage, it is very doubtful they’d receive the amount in tips they receive now and will likely bring home much less, with even a $15 per hour minimum wage, than they do with tips.
Instead of championing a policy of nominal, unsubstantiated impact, I propose we focus on workforce development, reducing excessive licensing policies hindering employment and the 153,000 regulations in Pennsylvania stifling economic growth.
There is a wealth of opportunity in the Commonwealth and, we as policymakers, need to make sure citizens are in the best position to take advantage of those opportunities instead of expending time and resources on programs that artificially prop them up and solidify their dependence on government. Pennsylvania is ripe with opportunity and government needs to get out of the way so our citizens can drive Pennsylvania’s economic growth.
Representative Dawn Keefer
92nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross