Edward G. Rendell, Governor
March 4, 2003
When I ran for Governor, I promised the people of Pennsylvania that we would bring change to state government. The budget I bring before you this morning is a painful but necessary first step toward delivering on that promise. But, as I will outline today, it is only a first step - Pennsylvania's real future lies in better-funded, better-performing schools, in property tax reform, and in the revitalization of our economy.
During the campaign, I told our fellow citizens that I would not hesitate to make the tough decisions necessary to build a brighter future for Pennsylvania. Now, in the face of a budget crisis that is far worse than anyone anticipated, I present a budget that includes a long list of tough decisions - decisions that will surely bring hardship to Pennsylvanians in every corner of the Commonwealth, but decisions that are necessary to achieve a balanced budget as required by our Constitution. Decisions that are a far better choice for the future of Pennsylvania than a decision to raise taxes just to maintain the status quo.
The budget discussion that begins today is the most important in a generation. We inherited a projected budget deficit of $2.4 billion, one of the largest in the modern history of Pennsylvania. I am not here to place blame for this crisis, because blame has no place in the work that lies ahead. But do not be fooled by those who minimize the problem because they fear the political consequences of facing up to it. The crisis is real. The deficit is real. And if we do not act now, the consequences will be even more real, risking Pennsylvania's future for generations to come.
Our predecessors in the Governor's Office and the General Assembly worked hard to fix the problem in the last few years. They tried to keep discretionary spending increases to a minimum, electing to nurse the budget along in the hope that the national economy would recover in time to jump-start our own. That meant a series of short-term budget "fixes," non-recurring, one-time revenue sources - like using funds borrowed from the reserves of the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, the Underground Storage Tank Fund and the State Stores Fund - to cover the growing deficit.
Yet even with these efforts, the crisis got worse. Even a "no-growth" budget must deal with certain programs that are mandated to grow in response to deteriorating economic or social conditions or population changes. Programs that support health care services for our citizens, which this year grew by more than ten percent. Or welfare programs, which are projected to grow by more than ten percent as well. And these mandated costs continue to spiral upward, as evidenced by the fact that our Medical Assistance costs for the coming year could increase by nearly $900 million.
As previous governors and legislators have learned, it's not so easy to eliminate growth in the budget.
All the while, the real problem persists. Thanks to a steady decline in revenues, state government has been spending more than it was taking in for the past several years. That was a no-win scenario. Just ask any of the thousands of Pennsylvania families who struggle each month to pay their own bills. They know that you can't spend more than you make. And if you do, there will be a day of reckoning. To avoid this, these families make difficult cuts to reduce what they spend.
That day has arrived for us as well, and it is exacting a heavy price. There has been a lot of debate about how serious the problem really is, and how devastating its impact. But the numbers do not lie. Pennsylvania's revenues for the current fiscal year, FY02-03, are more than $600 million below official estimates. To his credit, in December Governor Schweiker - upon announcing a projected revenue shortfall of $433 million - tried to close the gap with a series of spending freezes. Yet less than three months later, instead of closing the gap, the revenue shortfall has actually grown by nearly $200 million. That is why, on February 13, 2003, I announced another $120 million in spending freezes. The reason for our worsening condition is clear: our economy has not recovered, and the tax revenues we depend on continue to decline dramatically.
Our current structural deficit is the result of decisions made last year to bring the FY02-03 budget into line not primarily through spending cuts and recurring revenue increases - but with more than $1.5 billion worth of one-time, non-recurring revenue sources and cost avoidance strategies - techniques that cannot be repeated, and hard-built savings and reserves that, once spent, are gone forever.
We in Pennsylvania are not alone in dealing with a budget crisis. Many other states across the nation have announced record-breaking budget deficits - more than $5 billion in New Jersey, over $9 billion in New York, $10 billion in Texas, and a staggering $26 billion in California. It is a national problem: in total, state budget deficits nationwide now approach $85 billion for the coming year. States are taking drastic action to balance their budgets, and their deficits demonstrate the seriousness of the nation's economic problems.
In New York, Gov. Pataki proposes to cut state aid to public education by more than $1.2 billion, or 8.5 percent, and experts predict school property taxes will increase as a result. In Wisconsin, the Governor has proposed eliminating 2,900 state workers' jobs, and over 1,000 state workers in Minnesota began receiving layoff notices last month. In Florida, Governor Bush has proposed a $111 million cut in state funding for colleges and universities. And in Kentucky, the Governor proposed the release of more than 550 felons from state prisons and county jails in response to budgetary concerns.
These are basic services, and the pain is real. Many states are moving to reduce health care eligibility, virtually eliminating health care coverage for many of their poorest citizens. In Texas last week, the Administration proposed eliminating health care coverage for nearly 70,000 adults and more than 250,000 children. California has proposed eliminating health care coverage for 486,000 people. Massachusetts expects to cut 50,000 people from its health care coverage programs, Michigan anticipates cutting 39,000 people, and Connecticut has proposed eliminating health care coverage for 23,000 citizens. Massachusetts has also proposed eliminating completely its support for seniors prescription drug programs. And Oregon plans on closing public schools one day a month.
Across the Delaware River in New Jersey, things are equally dire. There, the proposed budget eliminates 1,000 positions from the state payroll, cuts $113 million in aid to colleges and universities, eliminates all grants to cultural, arts and historic organizations, and reduces support for prescription drugs for seniors by $89 million. The New Jersey budget also eliminates health care coverage for 58,000 people.
These cuts impact the neediest, most vulnerable Americans. And while the size of our budget deficit could compel similar program reductions, let me say up front that regardless of our budgetary crisis, I will not reduce the number of Pennsylvanians who receive health care coverage through state Medical Assistance. We must continue to care for these Pennsylvanians, and we will. They did not cause these problems, and we cannot balance the budget on the backs of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
In summary, we are by no means alone. But thanks to the careful spending decisions made by Governors Ridge and Schweiker and the General Assembly over the last eight years, many states face problems that are even worse than ours. This year, however, the numbers paint a grim picture.
Any objective review of Pennsylvania's fiscal situation leads to only one conclusion. We face a deficit of major proportions - projected to be $2.4 billion and growing. And that's before we even talk about property tax reform, education reform, or stimulating our economy. So even without talking about the issues that matter to most Pennsylvanians, we're already $2.4 billion in the hole.
We must act now to close the gap. My constitutional obligation requires it. And faced with the harsh reality of the deficit, I am today submitting a budget that closes the gap.
In the course of putting together this budget, I have met with many legislators - leadership and rank and file, Republican and Democrat. I have asked for their ideas, and I have incorporated virtually every idea that has been proposed into this budget plan. For example, our budget makes use of a number of non-recurring revenue adjustments, not to the degree that some have suggested, but as far as the limits of prudent budgeting will allow. We use these revenue sources now because we must - the simple fact is that without these non-recurring revenues adjustments we would have been forced to cut tens of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens from Medical Assistance.
Let me now turn to what this budget does not do. On the revenue side of the equation, this budget does not propose any increases in the personal income tax, sales tax, or any other tax. In particular, this budget does not propose increasing taxes on our corporate community - I agree with the many legislators who believe that raising business tax rates would only inhibit our chances to revive our economy.
This budget does not include any new revenues from gaming, including slot machines at racetracks in Pennsylvania.
The budget does include $767.7 million in new revenues for FY03-04 which we generate through the following measures:
Delaying until late in the fiscal year the rate reduction of the Capital Stock Franchise Tax, which will add $52.6 million in revenues. It is important to note, though, that it remains my intention to continue the yearly phase-out of this tax begun under Governor Ridge, and to reduce the tax each and every year until it is eliminated entirely;
Increasing user fees and improving revenue collection and enforcement, which combine to add $45.1 million;
Accessing the balance of the Tobacco Settlement Fund Endowment Account, which will generate an additional $330 million;
Changing the calculation of the escheat dormancy period for mutual insurance companies, which should generate an additional $90 million this year; and
Using the balance of the Rainy Day Fund, providing an extra $250 million.
The budget also includes revenues from a new assessment on nursing home facilities in Pennsylvania, as has been suggested by representatives of the industry, adding an additional $145 million to sustain funding for the Commonwealth's long-term care program.
On the spending side, this budget does what it must to close the deficit, and it includes cuts that inflict real hardship on our citizens. These are difficult choices, but unless we break out of the constraints of our existing revenues and lay the groundwork for a growing economy, these are the kinds of choices we must be prepared to live with.
So the budget includes the following spending reductions, among others:
First, I will cut the cost of running the government by ten percent across the board. This ten percent cut starts with the Executive Branch and will impact every state department and agency, for a savings of $211.8 million in the coming year. In doing so, we anticipate not filling 1,536 existing vacancies and continuing our ongoing efforts to reduce waste and manage more efficiently and effectively.
Second, I am requesting that the Legislature and the three elected independent offices - Auditor General, Attorney General, and Treasurer - do their fair share by holding funding to current year levels, with no increases for FY03-04.
Next, this budget eliminates a series of health care programs, including the Behavioral Health program, medical education programs, outpatient disproportionate share payments to hospitals, non-hospital residential treatment programs under Act 152, and substantially reduces Human Service Development Fund programs, for a combined savings of more than $154 million this year.
We will also delay until later in the fiscal year the expansion of the HealthChoices health insurance program, at a savings of $81 million.
The budget implements a five percent reduction in most social service grants, including those for domestic violence, rape crisis, and services to the homeless.
The budget also holds at current levels the Basic Education subsidy and the Special Education subsidy. In other words, school districts across Pennsylvania would get exactly the same amount that they received in FY02-03. Painful as this decision is, we have refused to implement cuts in funding for our public schools as other states have done, even as we recognize the critical need for additional state funding for education.
But the budget does significantly reduce other valuable education programs, including the Safe Schools Advocate, the Improvement for Library Services appropriation, and funding for professional development, while eliminating others such as the Performance Incentive grants, School Improvement Grants, Educational Support Services grants, and the Technology for Nonpublic Schools grants.
The budget also level funds all community college appropriations, even for enrollment growth or new mandated capital projects.
This budget cuts the marketing budget for businesses and tourism programs by 24 percent - more than ten million dollars.
It eliminates the Sewage Treatment Plant Operations Grants, paid to municipalities for operation and maintenance of sewage treatment facilities, at a savings of $51.1 million.
The budget reduces projected Department of Corrections spending by $118.6 million, which includes delaying the opening of a new prison (SCI-Forrest), the mothballing of SCI-Pittsburgh, and reductions in other personnel and administrative expenditures.
The budget reduces the Mass Transit appropriation by six percent, or $16.1 million.
And it cuts funding for State Parks operations by $10 million, relying instead on user fees to fund park operations. Finally, the budget includes a salary freeze for all collective bargaining agreements being negotiated. We simply do not have the money to fund pay raises, particularly at a time when we are asking so many to sacrifice so much. We must also reexamine all of our employee benefits programs to find every possible savings achievable without hurting the basic security of our workers and their families.
This is the grim reality of our budget crisis. The spending cuts that I have outlined inflict real hardship, eliminating valuable programs and cutting needed services. This budget provides for no investments in Pennsylvania's future. But it is balanced. And, as Governor, I have an obligation to act. The deficit that we confront today is the price we pay for putting off the day of reckoning until now. If we put it off any longer, the consequences will be even worse.
Fellow Pennsylvanians, I have just outlined for you a budget that is very bitter medicine indeed for hundreds of thousands of our citizens - old and young, in cities and small towns, people who didn't ask for any of this. People who seek only the chance to build better lives for themselves and their families, and who ask that their state government design programs and spend tax dollars to help them get there.
I have prepared this budget in response to the conditions I inherited and the statutory requirements of the state's budget process. But this necessary first step will not be my final word.
I hate this budget with every fiber of my body. These painful cuts will do nothing but balance the budget. But this budget does nothing to change our future, nothing to change the conditions we find ourselves in at the present, and it will doom us to repeat the past.
I don't like this budget - not one little bit - and I pray that it is not enacted until we can complete it with a realistic plan to revitalize our economy, our public schools, and our state and local tax structure. I believe that many of you will feel the same way. And most importantly, so will the people of Pennsylvania. They will realize that this budget offers only false choices for all of us. Choices between cutting these programs or those jobs. Choices between different paths to the same unhappy end for our citizens: limited economic opportunity, and diminished quality of life. And what is perhaps the bitterest pill of all, even if we close the gap this year, the deficit will reoccur next year, and perhaps in the years after that.
The fact is, this budget is about things as they are, not as they ought to be.
I have been Governor for six weeks, and I am more convinced than ever that despite the huge challenges before us, we stand on the precipice of great things in Pennsylvania. There is opportunity in every crisis, if we have the courage to pursue it. We can take charge of our own destiny, set our priorities, and act now to secure our future.
It begins by believing that our best days are ahead of us, and acting on that belief by investing in Pennsylvania once again. Instead of cutting the programs and services that our citizens need, let us together revitalize our economy through investments that foster business development, create jobs for our people, and increase state tax revenues in the process.
Let's stop waiting for the national economy to recover and bail us out. Because even if the national economy does recover, we will still be 47th out of 50 states in economic growth, and our unemployment rate will continue to rise.
Let's break out of the constraints of this fiscal crisis and break out of the pack of other states whose problems are even larger than ours. Let's jump-start a Pennsylvania recovery. It is only through long-term growth of our economy that we can rebuild and diversify our tax base and generate the sustained types of revenues that will help future Governors and General Assemblies avoid having to propose and enact painful budgets like the one I am proposing today.
We need to tackle the issues that are fundamental to our future. Issues that matter to all Pennsylvanians. We need to start investing in Pennsylvania's future this year. So I will return to this podium on March 25 to complete this budget with a bold Plan for a New Pennsylvania. But I want to describe for you today the major elements of that plan - a plan that invests in our collective future.
At the top of this agenda is the property tax, which is clearly unfair to many local taxpayers, particularly senior citizens and those on fixed incomes. Twenty-five percent of all households in Pennsylvania are headed by someone 65 or older. For many Pennsylvanians, especially senior citizens, their home is their largest single asset. It's the place where they raise their families, the center of their lives. And what does it say about us as leaders if we allow families to be driven out of their homes because they can't afford their property taxes?
Let's invest in Pennsylvania's families. I ask for your help in reducing school property taxes by an average of 30 percent this year. I pledged during the campaign to call a special session of the Legislature to cut property taxes, and since my election, legislative leaders have assured me that we do not need a special session because we all agree to give this issue the highest priority.
Now, some are saying that the budget crisis means we should wait to cut property taxes. I say, let's cut these crushing taxes now, and restructure our tax system in ways that make Pennsylvania more attractive to investors, and more equitable to homeowners while restoring vital services that are important to our economic growth. I will present a plan to this body that accomplishes exactly that. We can do it, if we are willing to try.
Reducing property taxes must be tied to reforming our public schools. Since 1970, the state's share of funding for public education has dropped from 55 percent to 35 percent of the total cost. Had we simply maintained the proportionate share of Commonwealth funding for public education at 1970 levels, we would be spending $2.2 billion more on public education this year. Our declining support for public education has forced local communities to cover our debt by raising taxes over and over again. Some have described this trend as robbing Peter to pay Paul. But it's even more shameful than that. It's robbing Peter, and making Paul pay.
All the while, our children have suffered. We've created a system where the quality of your public school education depends too much on where you live. Those in the wealthiest districts have the resources for an adequate education. Those in the poorer districts do not.
Pennsylvanians understand that we must fix our schools immediately. They know that there can be no economic recovery if we do not prepare our young people to take their place in our society and in the global marketplace. People can't work if they can't read, and today in Pennsylvania, shockingly, 50 percent of our eleventh grade public school students can't pass the state reading test.
In the coming weeks, I will submit a proposal to the Legislature detailing my plan to invest in Pennsylvania's schools. Under this plan, for the first time in a generation, average state funding for education will ultimately reach 50 percent of the total cost. We will provide all districts with increased funding and cut local property taxes at the same time.
And most importantly, we will create public schools that provide a quality education for our children, not by giving school districts blank checks, but by targeting resources to programs that we all know will improve student achievement. We will offer school districts the funds to reduce class size, provide pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten, and provide extra help for all students who need it - particularly those students in special education programs throughout the Commonwealth. We will offer administrators and teachers the tools to get the job done, like effective professional development programs, easy-to-access books and materials, and clean and safe school buildings. And having made this investment, we will insist on a fair return, demanding that those who are charged with educating our children be held accountable for the results.
We can succeed in reforming public education, and make Pennsylvania a national leader in the process.
Like many other states, Pennsylvania's economy has fallen on hard times. But I believe that we can be the comeback story of the decade, and in the coming weeks, I will submit a detailed plan to stimulate our economy. I will ask you to support an unprecedented effort to invest in Pennsylvania's future by injecting nearly $2 billion in economic development bond funds into Pennsylvania's economy - leveraging more than $5 billion in overall investment throughout every region of our State.
We have begun the task of coordinating all state economic and community development programs to ensure that we are making the most effective use of public dollars. My goal is to fund targeted investments across the state. Investments that make sense for our future, and that put Pennsylvanians on the job. Like rebuilding our infrastructure - our roads, bridges, adding rail lines, even modernizing our technology and telecommunications systems. I want to transform blighted property and encourage redevelopment in places that have long since given up hope for their own recovery.
And most importantly, I want to work with local leaders to design economic development programs that make sense for each Pennsylvania community. Let's forge a genuine partnership between Main Street and the Main Capitol.
The importance of our economic stimulus plan to the future of our State cannot be overstated. As I said earlier, the balanced budget I detailed today will do nothing in the future to restore the painful cuts. The only way we can get out of our deficit and the horrible situation we find ourselves in is to grow our way out. If our stimulus plan succeeds in growing our economy, it will broaden our tax base. The increasing revenues from that growth will allow us to restore cuts and to do even more.
When I took over as Mayor of Philadelphia in 1992, the City faced the worst budget crisis in its long and storied history. Just like today, my first budget in Philadelphia contained many painful cuts. For example, in my first budget year, we reduced the subsidy to our Community College by 2.4 percent, we reduced funding to the Police Department and the Fire Department by more than 5 percent and almost 4 percent respectively, and we reduced funding to the Recreation Department by a staggering 16.7 percent.
I told the people of Philadelphia then that if we had the discipline and the will to endure short-term pain, we would surely all experience long-term gain. We invested $1.5 billion in the City's economy and transformed it into a growing, vibrant engine. And as a result, over eight years we increased our subsidy to the Community College by 17.5 percent, we increased our funding for the Police Department and the Fire Department by 21.5 percent and 16.5 percent respectively, and we increased funding for the Recreation Department by almost 12 percent - and all this while we were cutting taxes five years in a row.
I recognize that this is an ambitious agenda. It is the agenda upon which I campaigned. And more importantly, Pennsylvania voters made clear that it is their agenda for change. Reduce property taxes. Reform public education. And revitalize our economy.
If we achieve these goals, we'll have gone a long way toward closing our budget deficit, too. But we must do more.
First and foremost, we must squeeze every nickel of efficiency out of government. We are moving ahead on a whole range of initiatives to reduce the cost of government across the board. As I said during the campaign, our goal is to over time find savings of $1 billion, all by cutting wasteful spending and improving efficiencies. We're already making great progress, identifying $255 million in cost savings and revenue enhancements in this budget. And we are now pursuing initiatives to purchase government supplies and materials more efficiently to reduce our warehouse costs - which alone could save more than $250 million a year. We are evaluating the use of a statewide pharmacy benefits manager to consolidate pharmaceutical drug purchasing, which could generate another $200 million in savings. And improved tax collection and coordination with the federal government could generate over $100 million in new tax revenues.
And we're also asking for help from those who do business with the Commonwealth. Today I am asking all of the state's vendors to consider a voluntary five percent "giveback" to help reduce the government costs.
We're determined to start spending smarter in Pennsylvania, and we are looking at scores of ideas to make government more efficient. Whether these initiatives generate savings large or small, our goal is to change the culture of state government so that efficiency is something we think about every day. That's why we're going to start strictly enforcing existing state personnel procedures to reduce overtime costs. And why we're undertaking comprehensive, top-down reviews of the Commonwealth's 37,000-vehicle fleet and how we purchase pharmaceutical supplies for prescription drug programs.
We have more than 5,000 cell phones in state government. That makes us a huge customer, yet there's never been a plan to take advantage of this buying power to get taxpayers a better deal when it comes to purchasing calling plans for government cell phones. And while we're at it, when it comes to toll-free telephone numbers, Pennsylvania's motto appears to be 1-800-WE-WASTE. I recognize that we want to make state government accessible to our citizens, but Pennsylvania has a separate call center for each of its more than 500 toll-free numbers. It costs taxpayers thousands of dollars per year, and it's time to streamline this service.
But even with these management and productivity initiatives and the revenue enhancements we have identified, additional revenues will be necessary. To pay for the programs and services that Pennsylvanians deserve, to invest in our future, we must find new sources of revenue.
The hard truth is that states throughout the nation are reluctantly moving to seek tax increases across the board. Income tax, sales tax, excise and liquor taxes, school property taxes, premium taxes for health plans, and increases in user fees are but some of the many ways states are proposing to raise critically needed revenues. After only six weeks in office, I'm not ready to succumb to this national tidal wave. While we may have to pursue a similar course, there are other avenues to exhaust first.
So addition to increased management and productivity savings, there is another piece of revenue enhancement that will be included in my detailed plan. It is my intention to ask this Legislature to follow the lead of our neighbors in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and West Virginia, and enact a limited expansion of gaming in Pennsylvania.
Today, Pennsylvanians leave our borders to spend more than $3 billion each year in these states on various forms of gaming. I am sensitive to the concerns that legislators and others have expressed about the moral dilemmas posed by gaming. But we can no longer close our eyes to the fact that, on this issue, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are voting with their feet every year, traveling to our neighboring states and depositing hundreds of millions of dollars into those states' treasuries.
What's worse, this gaming exodus threatens to destroy horse racing in Pennsylvania - a $1.2 billion industry that supports more than 35,000 jobs statewide. Not only groomers, handlers, and thousands of race track employees, but also farmers who raise hay, and the haulers and others who make a living by supplying Pennsylvania's racetracks with the products and services essential to track operations.
Our racetracks cannot compete against tracks in other states that offer slot machine gaming, and we must find a solution to save this important industry in Pennsylvania.
For all of these reasons, interest in expanded gaming in Pennsylvania has never been higher. I therefore propose that we act in this session to approve slot machine gaming in Pennsylvania. Let us work together to place tight controls on its operation and to make counseling programs available to those who need them. But let us act now to capture this critically needed source of new revenue.
I promised the people of Pennsylvania change, I promised them that state government would make appropriate investments in our future, and I promised them that before I proposed any increases in taxes, I would turn over every stone and investigate every opportunity to save money and to seek out every other possible revenue enhancement. After all, the problems of unfair property taxes, public funding for education, and the economic competitiveness of our Commonwealth have been decades in the making.
So our work will continue, even with a sense of new urgency. But today, I want to be honest with the citizens of this Commonwealth: I anticipate that a tax increase will likely be necessary to make this plan a reality. And on March 25, I will be ready to submit my detailed Plan for a New Pennsylvania. That plan will provide a blueprint for Pennsylvania's future and will lay out the details of how we pay for it. But it will not reduce all of the pain of the budget I propose to you today - that will need to await the long term growth of Pennsylvania's economy, which will surely come.
We are truly at a crossroads in Pennsylvania. The two budget approaches that I have outlined here today represent the stark choices that we face in this budget cycle. We can continue on our current path, failing to address the real issues that have caused the $2.4 billion budget deficit. If we choose this course, I will have no choice but to seek the approval of a budget that closes the deficit with significant spending cuts and no investments in Pennsylvania's future, even at the expense of causing real hardship to thousands of our citizens.
Or we can embrace the opportunity for change that can restore Pennsylvania as America's Keystone.
I recognize that this is not a traditional budget address, by any means. And I do not ask the members of this distinguished body to make these decisions without a full and vigorous debate. I welcome it, and as this Administration learns more about the details of our financial condition, we will share that information with each of you.
More importantly, we will work cooperatively with the Legislature to reach consensus on the elements of this agenda for a New Pennsylvania. Let us together chart a new course for Pennsylvania's future. And let that historic effort begin today.
These are bold ideas, and the time for action is now. As I have said before, I was not elected to minister to a dying patient. I asked the people of Pennsylvania to give me a chance to lead, and that's what I intend to do. I believe that this budget cycle provides the opportunity for us to start a Pennsylvania recovery instead of waiting for the national economy or the federal government to bail us out. We can put our own fiscal house in order, and set Pennsylvania on a sound financial footing for years to come. We have the chance to fix what's really broken, if only we are willing to try.
There is an old saying: "The true test of leadership is not the sudden tug of the emergency, but the steady pull of the long haul." Today, we face a budget deficit that is nothing short of an emergency. We must address it immediately, and that effort begins in earnest today.
But in acting to resolve these problems, let us also take advantage of the opportunity that they present for the long haul. Let's not just accept things as they are, but dare to dream of things as they ought to be for the people of Pennsylvania. In that endeavor, I ask for your support.
The choice is ours. Let's act together for Pennsylvania's future.