Burns urges restraint, patience on 2021-22 state budget

Wolf’s proposal a ‘starting point’ subject to negotiation with GOP

EBENSBURG, Feb. 3 – Having traveled this road many times before, state Rep. Frank Burns is taking a clear-eyed approach to Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2021-22 budget proposal unveiled today, noting that inevitable negotiations with the GOP-controlled legislature must occur.

Burns, D-Cambria, said the Democratic governor’s wish list for spending seldom has been adopted in full form – a pattern likely to continue with Republicans having retained majorities in the state House and state Senate in last year’s elections.

“We’d all be wise to take a wait-and-see approach, realizing that the governor’s budget proposal is a necessary starting point – which may, in fact, bear little resemblance to what is finally approved,” Burns said. “Compromise with legislative leaders, especially on the Republican side, will impact the final spending plan. It’s premature to be up in arms about anything, one way or the other.”

Burns said what he absolutely doesn’t want to see is a repeat of 2015-16, when a nine-month budget impasse threatened to shut off funding for public schools and social services. Burns was one of 13 House Democrats who voted to end that standoff, avoiding such a worst-case scenario.

Regardless of what is included or omitted from the final version put up for a vote, Burns said he makes no bones about his one non-negotiable necessity: No new taxes.

“In years past, I’ve had my arm twisted so much to raise taxes that it’s a wonder it didn’t snap off,” Burns said. “They couldn’t get me to capitulate then – and they won’t do it now. State government must learn to live within its means. I believe that, and so do the vast majority of people I represent.”

In a broad sense, Burns said he’ll pay particular attention to budget initiatives related to enhancing infrastructure development, job retention and creation, and education and training, all of which are wise investments in Cambria County’s future.

Burns said he’ll also be taking a keen interest in any budget proposals to help businesses adversely impacted by COVID-19, especially mom-and-pop operations which are struggling mightily to stay viable during the pandemic.