MEMO: Governor Wolf Has Reached Out But Republicans Bring Nothing to the Table

July 09, 2015

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Mark Nicastre

MEMO: Governor Wolf Has Reached Out But Republicans Bring Nothing to the Table

DATE: Thursday, July 09, 2015

In his budget address, Governor Tom Wolf told Republicans and Democrats alike to bring him different ideas and he would listen. But, he also said that simply saying no is not an option. In an effort to hear from Republican leaders and members, the governor made outreach a priority. He went above and beyond. The governor put on his calendar time for weekly meetings with Republican leadership; he dropped in on dozens upon dozens of Republican members around the Capitol, and invited every member of the legislature – some on multiple occasions – to break bread, literally, with him at the Governor’s Residence over breakfast, lunch and dinner.

On the night before and the morning of the governor’s budget address, Senators Corman and Scarnati were no shows for traditional briefings where the governor explains his budget proposal. Immediately following his address, Republican leaders rejected the governor’s budget outright – without ever having a conversation.

In the end, the Republicans passed a budget that contained their priorities and nothing else. The Republican budget failed to include a commonsense severance tax, it does not restore cuts made by Republicans to education over the last four years or reduce property taxes, and the Republican budget would increase – rather than responsibly address – the structural budget deficit.

Republicans are ignoring the will of the people of Pennsylvania. The public has spoken time and again that they also prioritize more funding for schools and property tax relief and a majority of Pennsylvanians support a commonsense severance tax. They voted for divided government – not dysfunction.

For months, Republican leaders talked a good game of compromise – that the governor would have to sign things he didn’t like and Republican leaders would have to pass things they didn’t like. But in the end, the Republicans passed a partisan budget that failed to give Pennsylvanians what they want and ignored the governor’s efforts to compromise.

The governor met Republicans more than halfway on their priorities; pension and liquor reform and he offered major concessions on his severance tax.

The governor has tried to compromise. He has gone above and beyond to reach out to the General Assembly. The Republicans have brought nothing to the table but gamesmanship, rhetoric and an unbalanced budget.

It is now in the hands of Republican leadership to bring something more than nothing to the table. Pennsylvanians deserve a good budget – one that is balanced – that addresses the long-term structural deficit without gimmicks, and prioritizes the public’s desire for more funding for education from a severance tax and relief from property taxes.

One-Sided Compromise

The governor is the only party in budget negotiations that has made significant concessions to try to gain compromise. In addition to concessions made in private negotiations, the Wolf administration has publicly offered major concessions on the severance tax, liquor reform, and pensions. The Republicans made their proposals on their two top priorities “pre-requirements” and, on the governor’s popular plan to enact a severance tax on oil and gas drillers, said their “counterproposal was nothing.”

Reaching Out

Starting the week of his inauguration, the governor began dropping in to offices to meet face-to-face with members of the General Assembly from both parties. Since then, the governor has done this more than 20 times – sometimes walking the halls of the Capitol for hours.

The governor set a standing Tuesday meeting for Republican leadership to meet with him. Since his March budget address, the governor hosted at least 17 meetings with Republican leadership. On three occasions, they just did not show up.

Further, in order to build collegial working relationships and discuss policy proposals with members of the General Assembly from both parties, the governor has hosted more than 30 legislative meals at the Governor’s Residence, including at least seven breakfasts, seven lunches, and 19 dinners.

The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that the Governor’s attempt to reach out directly to lawmakers was “a radical departure from earlier governors.” The Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Brad Bumsted noted that these efforts to reach out to the General Assembly make Governor Wolf a “polar opposite” of his predecessor.

 

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