At a press conference Wednesday, Governor Wolf begrudgingly accepted reality and announced that he would allow the recently passed budget to become law. He will not sign the budget, but the Pennsylvania Constitution allows legislation passed by the General Assembly to become law ten days after passage if it is not signed or vetoed.
Initially, the Governor stated he would veto the budget, yet again, and drag the nearly nine-month saga out even longer to force the General Assembly to raise taxes. Wolf’s strategy was met with widespread criticism from within the Democratic caucuses and the usually friendly news media. On final passage, Democrats in the House and Senate joined with their Republican colleagues in voting for passage of the budget. Media reports also indicated that there would be widespread defections in the House and Senate among Democrats leading to a veto override if Wolf went down that path again.
While the budget could have done more to reign in out of control spending, it is a far cry from the Governor’s original proposal that would have required a multibillion-dollar tax increase to pay for even higher levels of spending. The enactment of this budget has an impact broader than funds being released to schools. Wolf’s 2016-2017 proposed budget had, in a flight of fancy, assumed that he would have gotten his way from the General Assembly in the 2015-2016 budget. By finally accepting lower spending for the current year, the baseline for the next budget decreases substantially. This would not have been possible without CAP members in the General Assembly, and other conservatives in Harrisburg.
We hope Governor Wolf learns some long-term lessons from his budget battle. However given his previous pronouncements about spending levels, we won’t be holding our breath.