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Frustration running high over budget

I am just as frustrated with Harrisburg as you are.

Whether some in Harrisburg want to admit it or not, our state is facing a crisis. Both the Independent Fiscal Office and Standard and Poor’s agree, even without restoring funding for education and human services programs, Pennsylvania is still looking at a $2 billion deficit next year. Continuing these exorbitant deficits results in mortgaging our children’s future and doing nothing is not an option any more.

The fact of the matter is that the political climate has changed. Politics is not what it used to be. A handshake no longer solidifies a deal. In fact, politics in Harrisburg has become so dysfunctional that it is increasingly difficult to do what’s morally correct for fear of losing a political battle.

However, for the past 25 years, I have always put the people of the 76th District before politics. Regardless of how hard it is to vote a certain way, if it is in the best interest of my constituents, I am going to stand by my decision. I have always risen above what is good for politics to do what is right for my community and the people of Pennsylvania. That mentality still holds true today, and my moral beliefs will not change no matter how dysfunctional things become in Harrisburg. When I took the oath of office, I pledged to be honest, open and transparent. After all, isn’t that what responsible governing is all about?

The truth is that we are facing a real crisis in this state, and we are at a crossroad. I voted against every one of the budgets proposed by the previous administration simply because they didn’t balance. Drastically underfunding education was a huge mistake. The state as a whole is now suffering because of it. The decisions made under the direction of former Gov. Tom Corbett have all come to a head. Higher property taxes, larger class sizes and a massive deficit have brought us to where we are today.

Over the past eight months, I have chosen to take a stand, to expose the truth about what is really happening in state government and to work toward closing the structural deficit. We as legislators have a constitutional obligation to pass a balanced commonsense budget.

As a state, Pennsylvania needs a boost in revenue to help dig us out of this financial hole. Never in the history of my service to this commonwealth has it been acceptable to piecemeal a budget together like Speaker Mike Turzai and his colleagues have been trying to do the past few months. If we continually pass the buck at the state level without fixing our own deficit, property taxes back home will continue to rise.

Every day I come to work fighting for a better life for the people I serve. I think about each and every family who has to sit around the dining room table analyzing their own budgets. I think about how they do not have the luxury of balancing their checkbook and paying the bills with imaginary income. Yet, in a way, this is exactly what Turzai has done in the past three budgets passed in the House. This type of budgeting is disingenuous and unfair to the people of Pennsylvania. The mortgage is due in Pennsylvania; the credit cards are maxed out and we have to act now before we lose everything.

With this in mind, I call on the governor to do everything in his power to get leaders in all four caucuses to return to the table. Let’s negotiate a commonsense budget and get this crisis resolved.

Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, is the state House Democratic whip.

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