PA House Passes Budget Solely on GOP Votes
PA House Passes Budget with All GOP Votes
By Jared Edgerton and Judith Ayers
After nine hours of debate today, and three hours yesterday, the $27.3 billion GOP budget was passed 109 votes to 92. The budget keeps taxes at the same level and gives more to education and less to the Department of Public Welfare than the budget proposed by Governor Corbett two months ago.
House GOP members have praised this budget “for its fiscal restraint and lack of new taxes.”
It is prioritized spending, it is responsible spending, and it does not increase taxes, it does not borrow and it will be done on time,” said Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) in a statement. “This budget spends $27.3 billion… that is billions of dollars to help Pennsylvanians who need it and billions to help students.”
In response to the vote Democrats are sounding off, characterizing the budget spending cuts as extreme and detrimental for veteran’s program, human services and education.
In a press release following the vote the House Democratic Caucus called the Republican budget “short-sighted and counter-productive to the goal of moving Pennsylvania forward,” arguing that cuts to education will undermine future economic growth.
Democratic Whip Representative Mike Hanna also voiced his displeasure, tweeting “I voted no” on the budget and called the budget “irresponsible and unfair.” Representative Steve Santarsiero followed suit tweeting “the budget makes unfair cuts,” adding that it rejects the “new [tax] revenue.”
The Pennsylvania House Democrats twitter account also posted the GOP budget will force tax hikes and teacher firings in Beaver County and warned Pennsylvanians “the brutal cuts were on the way for schools, seniors, the disabled and working families.”
Even State Senators responded to the budget vote. In a press release Senator Jay Costa said he looked forward to working with his Republican State Senate colleagues and acknowledged that the House GOP has moved to take some of the Democrats suggestions, but emphasizing there still has to be “substantial restorations to education funding.”
State Senator Vincent Hughes echoed Senator Costa’s position stating “in the coming weeks, we will work with our Senate Republican colleagues to concentrate on the many shortcomings of the House GOP and Corbett budget plans.”
Democrats have focused their criticisms on the budget arguing the $506 million surplus, generated by more tax dollars than anticipated, should be used to scale back some of the spending cuts. The Democratic House Leadership even estimates that additional tax revenue will increase to $1 billion by the end of the year.
Turzai noted he had counted over $1.5 billion that Democrats would like to spend on top of the GOP proposal. “Who are you taking the money from?” he asked.
In the PA Senate, meanwhile, Republican leaders are pushing for a proposal that spends the surplus.
State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, said rolling back K-12 funding to 2008-09 levels is necessary because federal stimulus dollars are no longer infusing coffers.
“The education establishment has certainly let their voices be heard, but the people at large are encouraging us to move forward with a common-sense spending plan that doesn’t raise taxes,” Kauffman said.
Yesterday and today Democrats used most of the debate to urge the proposed budget to be sent back to committee instead of offering amendments.
House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton explained this strategy calling the GOP plan “beyond fixable.”
Speaker Sam Smith responded to criticism yesterday in an interview calling it the “same spend every penny we have’ mentality’…[that] got us into this problem.” Speaker Smith believes the surplus should be put into a rainy day fund to avoid future budget impasses.
However, he indicated there might be some room for compromise in spending increases if the Corbett administration increases its estimate of how much money will be coming into state coffers next year.
The House GOP is determined to have the first budget passed on time in 8 years.