July 23, 2015
One of the key differences in the ongoing budget impasse between the Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly is the issue of education funding.
Thirty-eight percent of the budget that Wolf vetoed on June 30 would have spent $11,515,925,000 of state moneys in support of education: $31,550,479.45 a day, $1,314,603.31 an hour, $21,910.06 a minute, and $365.17 a second.
When you factor in federal and state tax money in support of education, the Commonwealth spends about $27 billion to support education: $74 milion a day, $3 million an hour, $51,369 a minute, and $856 a second.
Wolf wants another $620 million for education. This would be in addition to the $1,3 billion needed to close the structural deficit facing this year's state budget (another $2 billion will be needed to again balance the Commonwealth's spending next year).
To put those big numbers into perspective, consider this: If you spent $1 each second, it would take you 12 days to spend $1 million, 32 years to spend $1 billion, and 32,000 years to spend $1 trillion.
Wolf wants total additional spending of over $4.7 billion above last year's budget, an increase of more than 16 percent. To pay for all this spending, he's proposed increasing taxes by $4.7 billion this year; $12 billion over the next two years.
Wolf is pushing to increase the personal income tax by 20 percent and the sales tax 10 percent. He also wants a severance tax and increases in cigarette taxes and other tobacco products. Wolf also proposes a retroactive increase in the Bank Shares Tax.
Wolf wants additional spending of over $4.7 billion above last year's budget, an increase of more than 16 percent.
Taxpayers have been very generous in fulfilling the obligations of Article III, Section 14 of Pennsylvania's Constitution: "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth."
The current system is far from efficient: for each dollar invested in education, just 37 cents goes into classrooms.
Most of the money -- 62 percent -- goes to the salaries, healthcare, continuing education, pensions, and other benefits of the adults in education. How many of us would support a charity where just 38 percent of the monies collected go to the purpose of the charity while 62 percent goes for overhead?
Unfortunately, when I cite these realities to some, I often receive rejection of the facts and sometimes even outright hostility.
I have been told not helping public education is a slap in the face of those who make up the largest union in the state.
Interestingly, this union's stated mission is "To advocate for quality public education and our members through collective action" and who's vision is "To be the preeminent voice for education and the leading force for labor in Pennsylvania."
Their core values are "Being a member-driven organization; Collective action based on core union principles; Dignity and equity for all students and members; Diversity; Integrity in words, actions, and data; Quality professional services by and for members."
In 60 words about education, there's just one – very brief – mention of students.
To me, education should focus first – and always – on students. However, in the current debate over education funding, students are used mostly to demand more and more money – because: "it's for the kids."
State Sen. Mike Folmer, a Republican represents the Lebanon County-based 48th Senate District.