There’s money growing all around us, and it can help save our state budget

One thing that I’ve heard my parents say over and over again is, “Son, money doesn’t grow on trees!” Well, Mom and Dad, I have to disagree. With a little bit of creativity, innovation and hard work, Pennsylvania could literally have money growing around us, and it could help stabilize our state budget.

Now in my fourth term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, I have learned quite a few things about state government. Above and beyond, one of the most important lessons is to always respect the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve spent the past few weeks hearing testimony from various departments and agencies that keep our state moving. As they’ve talked about their financial needs for the upcoming fiscal year, it becomes clearer and clearer that change is needed to help our state government and its taxpayers.

Pennsylvania will be facing troubling fiscal stability in the near future, as our one-time revenue sources and draining accounts are exhausted, and we are required to find money elsewhere. We’ve had opportunities of revenue growth in the past, but have been shut down by Republicans and the interests of lobbying groups. As many know, Pennsylvania is the only major state not to tax natural-gas drilling, finessing the state out of millions of dollars in revenue and forcing taxpayers to foot the bill. While an overwhelming majority of citizens agree natural-gas extraction companies should be paying their fair share, inaction has been the name of the game.

As it goes, until the leadership in the state House wises up and answers this opportunity at our doorstep, we are forced to turn elsewhere and look for new prospects.  

Pennsylvania needs new revenue streams and without even realizing it, there is money growing on plants and sometimes trees! Marijuana is that money. Whether you are for or against legalization, one thing you have to agree with is that you can go to any street corner and buy it. That’s why it’s key to actively shut down illegal drug trafficking and the cartels that power them, safely regulate transactions and tax it. By utilizing state-run systems, such as liquor stores, we can allow legal adult cannabis use and establish a new revenue stream. 

The revenue that could potentially be collected is no joke, either. A study done by the Pennsylvania Auditor General reports the state could collect more than $500 million a year by regulating and taxing marijuana. This funding could be used to help balance our state budget as well as help to fast-track initiatives such as property tax relief, increased opioid addiction treatments and enhanced health care services for veterans and children. 

That’s why now, more than ever, it’s time to get the ball rolling and have Pennsylvania on the forefront of this issue. As neighboring states begin to contemplate or fully legalize adult cannabis use, we must act to remain competitive. If we don’t, we will miss out on a tremendous level of potential revenue, forcing levels of budget wizardry never seen before in our state legislature. That’s why I call on my fellow legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, to come to the table and look at the possibilities at hand.

I look forward to advancing the conversation on this issue, reviewing the results of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s statewide listening tour and hearing from you. It’s time to put the will of the people first, not special interests. By planting these seeds of opportunity, we can expect years of reaping the benefits with funding growing quite literally on trees.