Less than a week before he presents his 2017-18 budget, Gov. Tom Wolf is revealing few hints about his spending plan other than it will be streamlined and won't include any “broad-based tax increases."
Wolf hasn't said if the new budget will be less, the same or more than the current $31.5 billion one.
“You’ll have to wait and see,” Wolf said. “I think this has to be living within our means and not fudging the numbers. Not smoke and mirrors, not making stuff up.”
The state is pulling in revenues 2.7 percent below projections and the governor expects to end the current fiscal year with a shortfall.
“We're still trying to figure out what's going on, the corporation taxes are way down over last year,” Wolf said. According to the state Department of Revenue, corporation tax collections are 7.3 percent below estimates.
The governor refuted the idea that the shortfall in corporation taxes means the commonwealth has a poor business environment.
"This is, I think, an issue with the nature of the corporate taxes in Pennsylvania where there are a lot of loopholes,” Wolf said. “We've created just under 100,000 new jobs. So there are businesses that are doing quite well in Pennsylvania."
But according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate in December was 5.6 percent, compared to the national rate of 4.7 percent.
Wolf said he plans to re-structure the budget and prioritize the areas he said Pennsylvanians want the government to care about.
"I want to protect education," Wolf said. "I want to protect human services. I want to make sure that we're addressing the needs of our seniors."
He’s already outlined some cost-cutting measures, including closing the state prison in Pittsburgh, which the Department of Corrections said will save about $80 million and the consolidation of the departments of Health, Human Services, Aging, and Drug and Alcohol Programs.
“We're not looking at a lot of layoffs, but just the streamlining and through attrition and normal retirements we're looking at maybe $50 or $60 million savings," he said.
Wolf said his budget proposal will not be “heavy on revenues,” but rather “heavy on streamlining.”
“This is not the traditional kind of thing where we're just slashing and burning our way to a balanced budget," he said. "We're actually trying to make government work better.”