Op/Ed: Leaving the GOP

What makes a life-long Republican leave the Republican Party? Just look at the latest state budget.

I was a registered Republican for over 30 years. Now, I’m a registered Libertarian. Folks often ask me why I switched. There are several reasons, but most fall into the category of disappointment with the utter failure of Republican candidates to live up to Republican principles once they get into office. Certainly, governing often requires compromise with folks on the other side of the aisle. I understand that sometimes, you have to take one step backward to take two steps forward. However, I have found that even when Republicans don’t need to compromise, they still fail to meet the standard expected by voters who are loyal to them and their party.

If you ask any Republican what distinguishes the Republican Party from the Democratic Party, one of the most common things you’ll hear about is “Fiscal Responsibility”.

This year, the Republican-led Pennsylvania legislature passed a budget that is anything but fiscally responsible.

I believe that “fiscal responsibility” means holding the line on spending increases to keep them at or below the TABOR (Tax-Payers Bill-Of-Rights) index. That number, which is derived from the rate of inflation and the population growth rate, is currently 1.79 percent for the state of Pennsylvania. Yet, the latest budget, passed with the approval of a majority of Republicans in Harrisburg, increases spending by 8.8 percent.

If you believe that it’s OK to increase spending faster than the rate of inflation, there’s a good chance that you are a Democrat. If you believe that it’s OK to increase spending at or below the rate of inflation, there’s a good chance that you are a Republican. And if you believe that our goal should be to decrease spending and shrink the size of government, (channeling Jeff Foxworthy here) you JUST might be a Libertarian.

Yes. We have a Democratic governor, but the Republican majorities in the House and Senate are overwhelming. There’s simply no excuse for these legislative bodies to allow spending to increase by almost five times the TABOR index. The pandemic is ending and the best thing that government can do to get us back to normal is to simply get out of the way.

I also believe that fiscal responsibility means paying off debt, as quickly as possible, to minimize interest expenses. When you have the power of taxation, combined with the ability to underfund pensions to balance the budget, it simply doesn’t make sense to put money into a “rainy day” fund earning a lower interest rate than you are paying on any other debt. Yet, the latest budget, passed with the approval of a majority of Republicans in Harrisburg, puts $2.5 Billion into the “rainy day” fund while the state still has a variety of unpaid debts and a $70 billion pension shortfall.

Most, if not all, of these debts have an effective interest rate that is greater than the rate of inflation. The state’s pension debt alone has an imputed interest rate of 7.25 percent and it’s highly unlikely that the rainy day fund is earning interest at a rate that is greater than inflation.

Ironically, a lot of our state’s debts were incurred in direct violation of Article VIII, Section 7 of the state constitution which basically says that the state can’t incur any long-term (not paid off in the same fiscal year) debt without a public referendum.

Maybe my memory is bad, but I don’t remember any such voter referendums since, well, as long as I can remember. Yet, the state has borrowed money from a variety of sources, including uncertain future Tobacco Settlement Funds. But ignoring the state and federal constitution is a whole different category of Republicans’ grievances with elected Republicans that I’ll dive into on another day.

Dan Truitt
West Chester
Dan Truitt is a former state representative for the 156th
Legislative District that includes Birmingham Township.

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