Bill Would Limit State Spending, Amend PA Constitution

Feb 23, 2015

Bill would limit state spending and shift funds to pensions and taxpayers.
Credit Tim Lambert / WITF

As Governor Tom Wolf prepares to introduce his first budget as Pennsylvania’s governor, two state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would limit state spending – with the ultimate goal of leaving the issue up to the voters. The bill, introduced by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-Greene) would tie the spending limit to the growth of the population and inflation.

“That percentage is all that the budget can grow,” said Bartolotta, “when there’s an excess in that, 25 percent of that will go back to the taxpayers, 25 percent will go to Rainy Day Fund and 50 percent of that excess will go to pay down the pension problem.”

The change is needed, according to Bartolotta, because general fund spending has more than tripled over the past 30 years.

“The population’s only grown by 7.7 percent and unfortunately the budget has grown to over 1,010 percent in that amount of time,” she said.

The bill’s cosponsor is Senator Mike Folmer (R-Dauphin) and Bartolotta said more than 20 other lawmakers have signed on as cosponsors. The state constitution does have an amendment requiring a balanced budget, but Bartolotta said it’s too vague.

“And the problem with that is that you can actually increase spending to make a balanced budget,” she said. “So it doesn’t limit spending, it doesn’t put any checks and balances in place to protect taxpayers.”

And, Bartolotta said, looking out for taxpayers is the main focus of the bill, along with boosting the state’s economy.

“Limiting spending would help lower taxes, the employment rate would rise, we would have greater opportunities for job growth, it’s going to basically provide tax relief and help the economy grow,” she said. 

The bill would ultimately amend the state constitution, which means it cannot be vetoed by the governor. In order to go before the voters, it must pass both the House and Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions.