It’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Year after year, government grows. Its tentacles stretch out. Its costs go up. So why are we surprised, year after year, when Pennsylvania finds itself in the same predicament: A struggling middle class trying to make ends meet, a sluggish economy and a political war over budget deficits and higher taxes?
For too many years, Harrisburg has put Band-Aids on broken bones that need to be reset. In other words, doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
Here’s what I know: Past practice isn’t solving our problems.
The reality is, the only way to permanently solve the problems facing Pennsylvania is to grow our economy. Taxes, fees and creative budget maneuvers will never get us on the path to prosperity.
It’s a new year and a new opportunity to improve our state. Let’s not waste it doing the same thing we’ve always done. This is what, I believe, Harrisburg should be focused on in 2018:
Jobs, jobs, jobs
▪ It is well past time to seriously reform our tax system to make Pennsylvania competitive in the global market and attractive to job creators. Our taxes shout “Anywhere but PA” to businesses looking for a place to build, grow and hire workers.
▪ We need to do a better job of aligning our education system to ensure students are aware of and prepared for the in-demand, good-paying careers of today, not just four-year colleges and universities.
▪ Pennsylvania should be a leader, not a follower, in economic development initiatives. We’ve already fallen behind, and if we don’t act soon, we’ll be left in the dust by states that are hungrier for new companies that are creating jobs.
Regulatory reform: Putting government in its place
▪ State government should be a resource for businesses looking to create jobs, not a barrier.
▪ Predictability, consistency and accountability must be inserted into permitting processes across all state agencies.
▪ Unnecessary, burdensome regulations and requirements must be eradicated.
▪ Unelected bureaucrats are not in charge. State government should work for the people, not against them. We need to reign in the unchecked power in our state agencies and put regulatory decisions back in the hands of representative government.
Responsible use of taxpayer dollars
▪ Status quo cannot continue. Government needs to be held responsible for how it spends and manages our money. Budget conversations should start around what we can do better, not around which taxes and fees should be raised next.
▪ Zero-based budgeting. We don’t spend what we don’t have. Period.
▪ Real welfare reform must happen. Our limited dollars should be directed only to those who are truly in need. Why is Pennsylvania giving away the store? It’s time to close the loopholes and put able-bodied people back to work.
Like so many New Year’s resolutions created with good intentions this time of year, we know what we need to do. The real question is, will we have the political courage and resolve to see it through?
I urge my colleagues in Harrisburg, on both sides of the aisle, to work with me on these important goals for 2018. Let’s make it our resolution to work together, not against one another, to strengthen our great state. Let’s do something different. I bet we’ll see better results.
Wishing everyone many blessings in the New Year. I look forward to serving you in 2018.
Kerry Benninghoff represents Pennsylvania’s 171st Legislative District.