Round-up: Editorial Reaction to Republican Budget, Gov. Wolf Veto

July 01, 2015

Harrisburg, PA – Last Friday, the Republicans introduced an unbalanced budget that did nothing to address Pennsylvania’s major issues and the top priorities of Pennsylvanians. The Republican budget proposal included $1.5 billion in one-time fixes and gimmicks, would have led to a $3 billion deficit, included less than 2% of the $500 million needed to restore cuts to our schools, and contained no property tax relief for seniors and middle-class families.

After receiving the bill from the General Assembly, Gov. Wolf vetoed the unbalanced budget and restarted budget negotiations anew. Throughout this process, Gov. Wolf has strived to work with Republicans. He has made concessions and he has kept an open mind. The Governor has already called meetings and now it is time for Republicans to work with him and negotiate in good faith. The games are over. The people of Pennsylvania deserve better.

Take a look at the coverage of these two actions in recent editorials from around the commonwealth:

Philadelphia Daily News Editorial: Tough to bargain with GOP lawmakers living in fantasyland – “The governor has an ambitious plan to fashion a “grand bargain” that balances the budget, increases state aid to public schools and lowers local property taxes by increasing the personal income tax, sales tax and by imposing a severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas. The Republicans have countered with an ambitious plan to deny reality and to say “no” to any talk about taxes, even the natural-gas tax. … Wolf was elected with a mandate to increase the state’s share of funding the schools and to erase the deficit he inherited. He has done so with a budget plan that he stresses is not the final word, but a beginning point for negotiations. The Republicans have responded by barricading themselves behind a series of demands.”

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial: Come together – “The $30 billion budget the Pennsylvania legislature’s ruling Republicans are catapulting through the Capitol is going to miss the mark. The plan dusts off one-shot gimmicks and a pledge of allegiance to gas drillers while offering no relief to property tax payers and ignoring the state’s schoolchildren. This bucket of bad ideas can hardly be seen as a serious proposal. One can only hope that Harrisburg’s reckless tone will change after Gov. Wolf inevitably vetoes the proposal and the state slips past the budget deadline Wednesday. Maybe then negotiations will begin in earnest. … Enacting the legislature’s plan, however, would cost taxpayers more by lowering bond ratings and deepening the deficit. The Democratic governor estimates that the proposal would increase the state’s deficit to $3 billion by shifting spending to future years and pillaging funds for small businesses, veterans, the environment, economic development, education, and agriculture. While analysts call this a status quo budget, it’s actually regressive, effectively robbing the state of a chance to grow. Compromise is essential.”

Scranton Times-Tribune Editorial: GOP budget posturing – “Apparently, legislative Republicans didn’t get the word that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf walloped Republican former Gov. Tom Corbett last November. And that race, unlike most of their races, was not in a safe, gerrymandered district. Voters made clear that Mr. Corbett’s policies were the architects of his demise. Accordingly, Mr. Wolf has reached out to the GOP majorities in both houses to change state governance. Yet Republican lawmakers cobbled together what, in effect, was the fifth Corbett budget. But, to be able to say that they passed a budget by the end of the fiscal year on Tuesday, the GOP leadership responded with a political stunt that deserves the governor’s veto.”

Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice Editorial: Voters want progress, not political theater – “Pennsylvanians made it clear that they want a reversal of education cuts. They clearly see the absurdity of allowing the natural gas industry to pay a minimal flat-rate “local impact fee” rather than a severance tax that reflects gas production levels and revenue. Voters desire revision to ruinous, open-ended local property taxation that worsens vast funding inequities between affluent and poor school districts. The budget concocted by the GOP leadership addresses none of that while including a token increase for education spending. As ever, GOP leaders stressed that their budget does not include new taxes. But it disguises rather than eliminates a deficit of $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion. And the only new tax proposed by the governor would be the long-overdue severance tax on gas. The rest of his proposal constitutes shifting more of the school tax burden to the state level, reducing property taxes while increasing state sales and income taxes.”

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader Editorial: Budget by July 1? Rigid government deadlines less important than results – “In Harrisburg and elsewhere, the yelps already have started regarding the possibility of a government shutdown later this summer because the General Assembly and governor have not yet reached agreement on a state budget, due July 1. The unfolding situation is both predictable and necessary. … Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has little bargaining power with the Republican-controlled state House and Senate other than his veto pen, which he’ll use with a flourish to strike down GOP budget plans, like the $30.1 billion draft now in circulation, that fall too far short of his expectations. Wolf previously spelled out his administration’s priorities in a $33 billion spending blueprint. It calls for increased education spending, revisions to the state’s property and sales taxes and the implementation of a severance tax on natural gas drillers. Unlike the last four years, under Gov. Tom “On Time” Corbett, Republican lawmakers have no reason to comply with a budget deadline and thereby make the state’s top elected official look good. Quite the contrary. So, you can expect a prolonged budget battle this year but a better product – forged by compromise – in the end.”

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