State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Budget acumen front and center in second Corbett-Wolf debate

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 1, 2014 12:56 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

The gubernatorial candidates exchanged rapid-fire budget barbs during their second debate Wednesday morning.

Democratic challenger Tom Wolf said Governor Corbett resorted to "gimmicks" to pass supposedly balanced budgets that ended up having multimillion dollar deficits.

Last fiscal year ended with a more than $500 million shortfall for the commonwealth.

"You obviously, you know, cooked the books to make it look like it was balanced, but it wasn't," Wolf said. "And there are real concerns about this budget."

"So you're accusing me of a criminal act?" Corbett said.

"I'm accusing you of overestimating what the revenues were going to be in the last year's budget," said Wolf, a York County businessman and former state revenue secretary under Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

Corbett said his administration simply expected greater tax revenue collections in the fiscal year that ended this past July.

"The revenue did not come in, but that's happened in many administrations in the past," Corbett said.

"Yeah, but you also had one-time transfers," said Wolf. "In this budget...we have questionable transfers."

One-time revenue sources can't be used from year to year, paving the way for spending shortfalls in subsequent state budgets. Wolf isn't the only person talking about them.

Upon the passage of the 2014-15 state budget, some state lawmakers voiced concern about covering a $1.4 billion gap with funds earmarked for special purposes.

Since July, all three major credit rating agencies also highlighted the state budget's reliance on one-time revenues. They did so in the course of docking Pennsylvania's borrowing grade. A lower credit rating makes it more expensive to borrow money and casts doubt on the borrower's fiscal health.

The third and final Corbett-Wolf debate is next week in Pittsburgh.

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