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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

State Budget Cuts Shifting Costs For Mandated Programs To Counties

As deliberations over the state’s 2009-10 operating budget continue in Harrisburg, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) has asked all of its member counties to assist in an effort to let the public know what could happen if state-mandated programs operated at the county level are not adequately funded. Following are excerpts of an editorial CCAP has distributed to media across the state:

County commissioners are monitoring the state budget process very closely, and we are very concerned that property tax payers are going to be asked to backfill funding for what are clearly state responsibilities. Voters need to be vigilant against a state budget that is balanced by passing the buck to them.

A large portion of funding for county human services comes from state appropriations. Counties also count on state funding for the common pleas judiciary, environmental programs, workforce development, transportation infrastructure and tourism promotion, to name a few. For example, regardless of available funding, counties must investigate potential cases of abuse or neglect, and take action to protect children who are in danger. This is a service required by the state and delivered by the counties.

So what happens if the commonwealth budget slashes funding in these areas? Commissioners will look to see whether existing revenue can be shifted around to cover the state’s responsibilities. In doing so, they may cut or eliminate important local programs that they aren’t required by law to fund.

But many counties already went through this exercise in the last fiscal year. There is no fat left to cut, and in some cases there are no budgetary reserves to tap into. The odds that your commissioners will have to raise the county real estate tax to help balance obligations that belong to the state is increasing with each reduction in funding.

Counties have already been squeezed by increased federal and state responsibility passed to the local level, as state and federal funding has failed to keep up with the growth in costs related to core government services. As the elected officials at the bottom of the chain, county commissioners cannot pass those choices off to some other level of government.

A commonwealth budget that reduces spending but shifts costs to the local level will not reduce taxpayers’ burdens overall. Potter County Today


Anonymous said...

CCAP should lobby hard to turn back the state mandates if funding is going to be cut back for these programs. The state does need to cut back and the status quo got into this economic mess as far as I'm concerned.

Anonymous said...

ditto on the 6:55 PM comment.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above posts. I respect our Commissioners and others in local government. Lobbying for the status-quo is not the answer to our state's or country's economic problems. Let the state cut, but also let the counties cut, if it becomes necessary. It won't be nice, but it's something that has to be done given the present economic situation.

Anonymous said...

Send one message loud and clear to our legislators: don't raise taxes! If it looks likes they're shifting the expense to the county, municipalities, and school districts say that isn't acceptable either. We absolutely cannot afford a tax increase given the current economic climate. There's a story below that says Potter County's unemployment rate is above 10%. It's time to say enough is enough to the taxing bodies--at all levels, federal, state, and local!

Anonymous said...

Please no new taxes. Send this message to the state too.
A concerned citizen

Anonymous said...

I agree with 5 previous posts (the last one being 8:49 PM if someone else posts). The economic situation is rather dire. Let's see what we can do on our own to get us out of this mess. The state spending and taxing hasn't helped us. It's only made things worse.

Mrs Vee said...

Rendell has not gotten the message yet!

The entire population of PA has had to cut back and tighten our budgets because the economy has tanked...when is he going to start?!

Give him hell Joe and Marty...and IF they can not make it clear enough to him then I guess our county commissioners had better tighten up our county spending!

How can it be legal for the state to mandate regulations and not provide their share of the expense? Boycott their regulations and mandated programs is what I say!

And if they send Potter County a fine, send them a bill w/ interest and late fees! Lets put the squeeze on the "big boys"!

Anonymous said...

Everytime the upper echelon decides to spend freely, the lower peons have to foot the bill. Come on, we are tired of footing your spending bills!!!!
Someone, please, tell Rendell we do have a limit and he is not free to do as he pleases, as he has been doing.

Anonymous said...

My concern is what programs will be cut. Keep in mind, many of those programs are the employers of our local people and by cutting them, you not only add hardship to the people of the county, but add to the unemployment rate.

With unemployment between 9 and 11%, that's 9-11% of workers NOT paying taxes. Raising taxes isn't something anyone wants, but the more unemployment we have, the less money paid in taxes. And the money has to come from somewhere.

I'd be more concerned with how the commissioners intend to get that extra money. Last I heard they were thinking of reinstating a tax on the potential energy (gas or wind) a property might have. The potential. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

At the rate these commisisoners have been spending the taxpayers money - trust me - taxes will have to be raised. Unfunded mandates have been around for years and years and other commissioners have delt with it. Get Morley and company to give us their percentage increases. Want to bet they wouldn't think of it?