The Senate Appropriations Committee Monday passed Senate Bill 181 (Mensch-R- Montgomery) establishing a Performance-Based Budget Board and requiring state agencies to justify their budget requests for all existing and proposed programs every year.
The legislation, however, does not cover the expenditures of the General Assembly ($365.1 million) or the Judiciary ($355.5 million) for a total of $720.6 million of the General Fund budget.
It only covers the agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction.
The Budget Board is required to review the performance-based budget plans of state agencies and make recommendations on how each agency’s programs may be made more transparent, effective, and efficient.
The Budget Board is made up of the Majority and Minority Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and the Governor’s Budget Secretary.
The agency budget plans approved by the Board are to be “considered” by the Governor and the General Assembly in developing the Commonwealth’s annual budget.
The bill was amended in Committee to require the Independent Fiscal Office to do a review tax credit programs.
“This is a very important step towards reducing wasteful government spending and providing a transparent, effective and efficient budget for our taxpayers,” said Sen. Mensch. “We need to ensure that the budget is driven by clear and defensible purposes rather than inertia. This type of budgeting is a normal occurrence in the private sector and the private sector does this to ensure every dollar spent produces the desired results.
“On the other hand, Pennsylvania government continues to add new programs and continue funding existing programs without critical checks or balances. This bill will help ensure that effective programs are identified, ineffective programs addressed, and better funding decisions are made for Pennsylvanians. ”
One major problem: unlike a business which choose to not to make certain products or close plants to save costs, government has to continue to enforce environmental laws, make sure doctors are licensed and highways get built because all those functions are assigned to state agencies by-- wait for it-- the General Assembly by passing new laws.
No laws-- responsibilities-- are ever taken away from agencies, only added by the-- wait for it-- General Assembly passing new laws.
That’s the difference between private business and government, things like protecting health and the environment are not optional. They are not widgets.
Government can and should be made more efficient without losing effectiveness, but it takes hard work. It’s much easier to cut numbers on a balance sheet and say you did something.Senate Bill 181 now moves to the House for action which is expected to actively consider the bill.