Scarnati on Budget Impasse

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Throughout his campaign and during the first few months of his Administration, Governor Wolf consistently voiced that he was going to be a different type of Governor. He said he wanted to work with the Legislature. I was encouraged and looked forward to a good, bipartisan relationship to help strengthen our Commonwealth.

Fast forward six months — Governor Wolf has certainly proven that he is different. Once he realized that a massive $4.7 billion tax increase in this year’s budget lacked support, he resorted to using both his Administration and Campaign to attack members of the Legislature, instead of working with us.

On June 30, the General Assembly passed a state budget with no tax increases and the highest level of state education funding in the history of Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf agreed with nearly 70 percent of what was in the budget presented to him, but decided to fully veto the plan because it didn’t increase taxes. He certainly could have vetoed only portions of the budget and kept funds available for vital services that so many Pennsylvanian’s rely on. But instead, he fully vetoed the plan — placing partisan ideology and his wish for massive taxes above the needs of our citizens.

Before asking taxpayers for more of their money, the Commonwealth must do all that we can to balance the budget without tax increases — which Republicans in the General Assembly were able to accomplish. The budget passed by the General Assembly put $100 million more into basic education, $25 million more into Pre-K programs, and $20 million more into special education — all without raising taxes. It also privatized our states archaic liquor system and tackled the number one cause of school cutbacks and property tax hikes: skyrocketing pensions. Unfortunately the Governor vetoed the pension reform and liquor privatization bills as well.

Recently, Governor Wolf’s staff member submitted a piece regarding the current 2015-16 state budget impasse, which harshly criticized Republicans. He says that Governor Wolf has hosted numerous meetings and made personal outreach a priority. Regardless, the central issue in Harrisburg currently is that the Governor is unwilling to negotiate and come to terms with the simple fact that we will not agree to his nearly $5 billion in tax increases. Republicans will not join the Governor in placing huge taxes on the people of Pennsylvania. I have listened to my constituents and they simply cannot afford government taking more and more of their paychecks.
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, Governor Wolf’s tax increase proposal is larger than all new taxes being proposed in the other 49 states combined. It’s also important to note that when put to a vote in the House of Representatives, no one, not even one member of the Governor’s own party supported his massive tax increase.

The Legislature is trying to work with Governor Wolf to develop a budget that will pass the General Assembly. However, Governor Wolf’s tax increases on personal income, diapers, daycare, college textbooks, nursing home services and so many other areas do not have the support of the people of Pennsylvania who have sent us to Harrisburg to be their voices. We will certainly continue to debate these issues in good faith, but will not agree to his massive tax increases which have no support in the Legislature, even within his own party.

(Editor’s note: Scarnati, R-Brockway, represents the 25th Senatorial District, which includes McKean, Cameron, Elk and Potter counties.)