All of us have to balance our checkbooks. If we spend more paying bills than we receive as income, we are in trouble. We cannot demand that somebody else make up the deficit. Unfortunately for us, Pennsylvania’s government operates outside these rules — and we are in trouble.
Even though its citizens have one of the highest tax burdens in the country, Pennsylvania is functionally insolvent and heading into bankruptcy. States cannot legally file bankruptcy. They can, however, run out of money — unless they take more from you.
As someone who has worked for more than 30 years with companies in financial distress, I know that any organization in fiscal difficulty must first acknowledge that it has a spending problem. In Pennsylvania’s case, political leaders must first concede that governmental pension liabilities are understated. The state assumes that its pension plan will earn 7.5 percent, but it lost 1.8 percent in the past year. That shortfall amounts to nearly $5 billion that must be made up by the taxpayer — money that we don’t have.
Second, we must demand that state government be efficient. We must eliminate duplicative state agencies. We must privatize jobs that can be better done outside of government. Government must get lean! The Auditor General’s office has been identifying inefficiencies, and I pledge to work with them to ensure that performance audits are done for every agency.
Third, waste fraud and abuse must be prosecuted in the state’s contracts and operations. We must ensure that those who need benefits get them without allowing others to take advantage of the system. Only enforcement of eligibility rules will prevent exploitation. Some have asked whether I can really make a difference. I have seen the cynicism and skepticism as I have gone door-to-door speaking to voters. Given government’s history, it is an understandable reaction.
However, I have extensive experience working in complex situations and with difficult partners, including executives faced with personal and corporate failure and, as a military advisor, with tribal antagonists in the Middle East. I know how to work closely with both sides, in working groups — without seeking headlines — to negotiate successfully. Ford Motor Co.’s CEO used the same approach with the firm’s unions and suppliers to keep his company solvent.
If we do nothing the outcome is the kind of financial failure experienced by the cities of Harrisburg and Detroit. The life of virtually every citizen will be more difficult. Haven’t enough people already lost their homes to taxes?
We can solve this problem. I am not willing to sit back and do nothing, but I need your help.
I am running for the 101st Legislative District seat in the state House, and I am asking for your vote in the November 8th General Election. Together, we can make our state stronger and our lives more secure.
Thanks for your consideration,
Col. Frank Ryan, USMCR (Ret.), CPA