Harrisburg should use Pennsylvania's surplus to prioritize our needs, not those of billionaires • Pennsylvania Capital-Star

By Steve Paul

Pennsylvania State Government is sitting on a $14 billion surplus, and it is time for a serious discussion about Republican priorities. While Republicans in Harrisburg are once again promising tax cuts for Pennsylvania's wealthiest, our communities are facing a series of crises, including Real estate crisis.

Republican politicians have spent months saying these funds cannot be used to help ordinary Pennsylvanians. Now they say they can – but for tax breaks for Pennsylvania's wealthiest residents. They have not proposed a solution to our biggest problems, like housing.

Despite clear needs, Republican leaders have consistently ignored practical solutions to meet people's needs. One example is the proposal in Governor Josh Shapiro's budget to invest $50 million in the Whole-Home Repairs Program. This initiative isn't just about home repairs; it's about affirming the dignity of safe, accessible, and energy-efficient housing for all Pennsylvanians. It's about creating good-paying jobs that provide meaningful work.

Counties and nonprofits also use this money for workforce development programs that improve our quality of life and create real jobs. These programs can include cash grants for apprentices as well as costs associated with designing and implementing pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships, and publicly funded on-the-job training programs.

So supporting programs like Whole-Home Repairs (as well as education, public transit, and many other programs) would not only strengthen neighborhoods across the state, but would also create jobs and spur economic growth—all while keeping $11 billion in the bank.

Normally, Republicans in the House and Senate would say that Pennsylvania simply cannot afford to spend any of the $14 billion surplus. That it would be fiscally irresponsible or somehow unethical to use Pennsylvania taxpayers' money to help Pennsylvania taxpayers. That's essentially been their main argument, not just since we amassed the surplus, but for decades, no matter how much money Pennsylvania had in reserve or what dire straits Pennsylvanians were in.

However, the Republicans have recently inadvertently revealed their cards. While they Despite it say we cannot afford to adequately fund economic development programs like Whole-Home Repairs, suddenly they claim we Are able to spend those same surplus funds to cut taxes on the richest one percent of Pennsylvania residents.

The claim by Pennsylvania Republicans that it is impractical or unethical to use our surpluses to support the very people who created them is not only false, it is harmful. They are now suddenly showing a willingness to use those funds to cut taxes for the elite. This is not fiscal responsibility, it is fiscal favoritism.

We are at a critical juncture. In a post-pandemic world where our homes have become our sanctuaries, offices and classrooms, investing in our neighborhoods is investing in our future. Why give thousands in tax breaks to the richest 1% when we could modernize our schools, build more reliable public transit and fix up homes?

Giving thousands of dollars to the richest one percent is not a good idea – and it is certainly not the way we should be spending billions of dollars. It is time to stop giving handouts to the rich. Let's make our surplus work for all of us.

Steve Paul is the executive director of One Pennsylvania, a progressive nonprofit organization.

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