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Gov. Wolf Says State Revenues Are Down, But ‘No Time To Panic’

Though Pennsylvania’s revenues are lagging to meet the $31.5 billion budget, Gov. Tom Wolf said seven months is plenty of time to make up the difference. 

The state Department of Revenue has taken in $262 million less than anticipated since July, a deficit of about 2.4 percent.

“If that (negative five-month trend) continues and the big months are also down 2 percent, that’s a real problem,” Wolf said. 

All three major revenue streams for the state are coming up short. So far this fiscal year, revenues from the Personal Income Tax are 1.8 percent short, sales tax collections are 2.9 percent behind and corporation tax revenues are 6.6 percent below projections.

A report released in November said Pennsylvania could fall short of the budget by $500 million.

“But I think we need to make sure we’re not panicking,” he said.

Wolf said the state's biggest collection months are still to come, including December, January, March and April. He credited an expected boost in sales tax revenues during the holiday season and individuals and companies filing their taxes in early spring.

But the estimates for even those months are based on past performance.

If a deficit persists, Wolf said the state could implement hiring freezes or force individual departments based in Harrisburg to make budget cuts or put a moratorium on filling vacancies as employees leave.

The state legislature, which just gave itself a 1.3 percent raise, could also turn to increasing taxes or privatizing liquor sales.

Wolf said those options aren’t something he takes lightly.

“I take that very seriously, and we adjust our expenditures according to the revenues that actually come in, not what we predict,” he said. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
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