Friday, February 15, 2013

My View: How Can We Justify An Expansion Of Government And New Taxes In Such A Fragile Economy?

Today, we present the first installment in our series dedicated to the eight public hearings for the Commonwealth’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget. This initial My View comes to us from Representative Matt Beaton.

Yesterday marked the start of a series of Fiscal Year 2014 Ways and Means hearings which will be held throughout the Commonwealth. This initial hearing provided the Constitutional Officers and Secretary of Administration and Finance an opportunity to come before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means to discuss various aspects of the Governor’s proposed H1 budget.

Given the Governor’s lofty proposals set forth in his budget recommendations, yesterday’s hearing kicked off what promises to be a spirited budget debate filled with many questions about his proposal of a 6.9% growth in government spending, which relies on a $400 million draw from the Commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund, $1.9 billion in new taxes, and the elimination of 44 exemptions to the tax code.

At the hearing, Republican membership led the charge in questioning those who testified, raising a number of concerns over the unprecedented tax increases and expansion of government, in the midst of economic uncertainty. The general theme of questioning focused largely on the magnitude and timing of the proposal, along with transparency and the accountability of a government currently operating in the shadow of a series of scandals including the Hinton Drug Lab, and the abuse of various welfare programs. 

Additionally, a number of questions were raised regarding the Governor’s transportation expansion plan at a time when significant resources are needed to repair aging transit infrastructure and to support an agency that is currently operating under crippling levels of debt.

Led by Representative Vinny deMacedo, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Ways and Means, the Republican members of the Committee sought to find answers to a number of concerns with the current budget proposal:

How can we justify an expansion of government and new taxes in such a fragile economy?

How can we justify to the taxpayers a huge expansion of programs that are either currently broken or wrought with waste and abuse?

Is it in the best interest of the Commonwealth, relative to long-term economic prosperity, to increase taxes by $1.9 billion while reducing our stabilization fund by another $400 million?

With these questions in mind, one must further ask: Is now the most prudent time for the Legislature to ask the citizens of the Commonwealth to increase the state bureaucracy another 6.9% on the backs of the hard working taxpayer?

This question lies at the heart of the argument brought forth by the Republican members at yesterday’s hearing. As the Ways and Means hearings progress, my Republican colleagues and I look forward to continuing this debate as well as drilling down on the specifics of the spending proposals. We will continue to advocate for smaller government and lower tax burdens for all residents of the Commonwealth.