Bad politics and bad governance
Back when the Founders devised a structure for the federal government, which since has been emulated by most states, they mandated frequent elections as a matter of accountability.
It was left to later generations of politicians to turn the idea on its head. Whereas the Founders viewed frequent elections as opportunities for citizens to approve or disapprove of their elected officials' actions, the politicians have come to view the approach of an election as an opportunity to evade that review by not doing anything.
So in Harrisburg last week, Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a budget that projects a 4 percent revenue increase without doing anything to make that increase happen.
The governor says economic growth alone will produce the increase, even though the current state budget's revenue collections are slightly behind a projected increase of just 1.6 percent.
Well, here's hoping the governor is correct, since the state - especially Northeast Pennsylvania - could use the economic activity and job creation that would be necessary to meet the governor's revenue projection for the next fiscal year.
Unfortunately, the governor and his allied lawmakers have left huge amounts of revenue on the table. There is much they could do to generate more state revenue, fairly, without imperiling economic activity.
- Mr. Corbett and the Legislature have declined to reform the corporate tax Delaware Loophole, enabling corporations doing business in Pennsylvania to spirit away legitimate tax revenue.
- The government continues to pay retailers 1 percent of the sales tax they collect.
- Pennsylvania remains the only state without a tax on cigars.
- For its own political reasons, the administration has walked away from Medicaid expansion, which would infuse billions of federal dollars into the state health care economy.
Economic and revenue growth are likely to result from the major achievement of Mr. Corbett's first three years in office - the transportation bill that passed last year. Billions of dollars in additional construction spending will ripple all the way into the state treasury.
The governor has been advised by polls that extreme austerity regarding important state business - education and social services - is bad for his re-election chances. It's also bad politics and bad governance to leave so much legitimate revenue on the table.