“It is unfortunate that Governor Wolf would rather create a crisis than hold a substantive discussion about Pennsylvania’s fiscal future”. “The math doesn’t work, it’s not balanced”. I’ve offered concessions. I have kept an open mind.
Wolf has not been as circumspect about the Republican-crafted $30.2 billion state budget bill, saying he will definitely veto at least parts of it. That bill would be sent to the House if senators approve it. It was not clear whether Republicans would attend.
As the state began the new fiscal year without even a partial budget in place, both sides said discussions would begin Monday in hope of bridging the vast gap between Wolf’s plan, which would raise taxes and substantially increase education funding, and the GOP plan that had no new taxes and much more modest school spending.
Senate Democrats said the budget measure does not address the real issues.
(Harrisburg) – The state General Assembly passed budget legislation and other major proposals Tuesday, setting up a showdown with Gov. Tom Wolf and a budget impasse. “As long as a state agency has money in its individual budget, it can continue to operate, according to Dan Egan, spokesman for Wolf’s Office of Administration”, PennLive reports.
The governor has not announced whether he plans to sign a bill that would make major changes to the two large public-sector pension plans, for teachers and state workers.
However, Republicans have shown no willingness to increase taxes and instead have reached for a grab-bag of payment delays and fund transfers to balance the budget. The governor and his staff have said over and over again that he will not sign a budget that does not include more money for schools, a severance tax on natural gas drillers and property tax reform.
On liquor, Republican lawmakers want to allow private retailers to sell wine and liquor – now the exclusive purview of the State Stores – and to lease the Liquor Control Board’s lucrative wholesale operations. “Where is their contribution to the state’s economy?” The governor has previously indicated opposition to both but said he’ll withhold his veto for now pending a review of those bills.
During debate on the pension bill, Republican backers said the current system is not sustainable for taxpayers.
Whilst engaged in some top-flight theater, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, bristled at accusations that the GOP were engaged in theatrics, cracking, “If this is theater, then we deserve the Tony”.
Earlier Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said that if Wolf vetoes the budget he will be ready to return to work on it Wednesday.
The GOP’s budget bill does not increase taxes and authorizes an additional $1.1 billion in spending, primarily for rising costs for public pensions and health care, as well as $200 million more for education.
On the Democratic side, there was frustration and some pointed criticisms for colleagues. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia. “Hershey’s controls chocolate, they don’t get rid of that asset”. (Wolf has proposed a new – and higher – levy than the impact fee drillers now pay.).
Some lawmakers say the plan would eliminate over 4,000 jobs.
Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria County, said the Republican budget is reminiscent of the cuts-only strategy of balancing spending under ex- Gov. Tom Corbett.