“If you don’t agree with my ideas, here is my request: please come with your own ideas. It’s not good enough to just say no and continue with the same old, same old. That’s our responsibility to the people of Pennsylvania.”
Those were the words of Governor Tom Wolf as he laid out a spending plan in March that would add more than $12 billion in new taxes over the next two years without addressing any of the major cost-drivers that lead to spending increases at the state level and massive property tax hikes at the local level.
Rather than giving state residents the same old approach of never-ending increases in government spending and taxes, lawmakers recently charted a better path forward: public pension reform, liquor privatization, and a budget that funded vital state services and increased funding and financial flexibility for school districts without the need for a tax increase. It is extremely disappointing that the governor chose to do what no other PA governor has done in 50 years – veto the entire budget and other priorities favored by Pennsylvanians.
What is most frustrating is the fact that Governor Wolf refused to fund the line items in the budget on which we all agree. Approximately two-thirds of the line items in the budget approved by legislators met or exceeded the governor’s spending request. The budget offered more than $1 billion in new spending (a 3.6 percent increase on the previous year’s budget), including $370 million in additional resources for education.
In any negotiation, getting two-thirds of what you want, and a 3.6 percent increase in difficult economic times, is a resounding victory. It is disappointing that the governor turned this win into a loss.
In addition to rejecting the budget, the governor vetoed major pieces of legislation strongly supported by Pennsylvanians of all political persuasions, including:
- Public pension reform that would offer teachers and state employees a fair retirement package that mirrors those offered in the private sector,
- Liquor privatization that would allow the state to focus on properly regulating alcohol consumption and delivery while allowing the private sector to do what it does best — deliver choice and consumer-driven solutions, and
- A public education code that included a new basic education formula that finally drives money out to schools in a fair and equitable manner.
Although many of my colleagues have criticized the governor’s actions as purely political, I would like to believe that he not just another crass ideologue. Instead, it appears that he is simply disconnected from middle class Pennsylvanians and does not feel the same sting of unchecked tax increases.
The local residents I meet at community events and town hall meetings want a budget that doesn’t raise their taxes and appropriately funds our schools, provides a fair pension system for teachers and state workers that does not require taxpayers to shoulder all of the financial risks, and liquor laws fit for the 21st century. It is disappointing that the “Just Say No” governor rejected all of these concepts. I remain hopeful that he will reverse course in the coming weeks and embrace a philosophy of budgeting and governing that is responsible and responsive to the people we represent.
CONTACT: Stephanie Buchanan (717) 787-4420