PA-BGT: Who Wants What?

pa-state-capitol-b175d9a07740ecf3After the PA House voted to kill a signature pension reform bill, leaders are scrambling to figure out what to do next.

The reform bill, rejected by a 149-52 vote on Saturday, was a key part of the budget framework package negotiated by Gov. Tom Wolf and GOP legislative leaders. After the vote, the General Assembly called off scheduled voting sessions in the the State House and Senate to give legislators a day for “cooling off,” Charles Thompson of PennLive reports.

GOP leaders met in the Capitol on Sunday as they planned their way forward, Marc Levy of the Associated Press reports.

With the budget agreement clearly not coming to fruition by Christmas as Wolf said at the beginning of the month, we look at what pieces each side sees in their ideal budgets.

Gov. Tom Wolf

The first-year Democratic Governor is still trying his best to keep everyone on board with the budget framework, though it’s obvious there are some serious issues after the House’s vote on Saturday.

Wolf will not sign any budget that does not include “historic” reinvestment for basic education in the Keystone State. He is also looking to get at least a $30.8 billion spending plan – a 6% increase from 2014-15.

“We cannot slide back on that commitment to our schools,” Wolf told reporters Saturday. “We cannot slide back on that commitment to a fully-balanced budget. We cannot slide back on our commitment to a full-year budget.”

Wolf has enjoyed solid support from Democrats in the House and Senate, although no House Democrats voted in favor of the Wolf-negotiated pension reform bill.

The former York businessman is also looking for some tax increases to offset the additional education funding and increases in human and social services. Wolf has also called for new taxes to narrow the state’s burgeoning deficit.

A hike on the state’s tobacco tax is likely to be included in any final deal, while there has been talk from the Governor’s office of increases in the state’s personal income and sales taxes.

Last week, GOP Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne said it would take around $650 to $700 million to balance the budget for the fiscal year that started on July 1.

Ideal Budget: $30.8 billion

Wish List: Education funding ($350 million), New Taxes (at least $1 billion)

House Majority Leader Dave Reed

In the hours after the PA House condemned the budget framework agreement to a certain defeat, Reed said he would work to put a stopgap budget back on the House floor.

The House Majority Leader also wants to scrap any talk over new taxes until Harrisburg can sort out the state’s “number one cost driver,” its pension systems for state and public school employees. 

“Obviously a full-year budget was priority number one,” Reed said Saturday. “Obviously, that’s not possible given the vote today. So we’ve got to go to option B.”

House GOP leaders announced a Tuesday vote on an emergency spending plan, though details were unclear, as lawmakers work to find available revenue and votes, AP reports.

Ideal Budget: Medium to long-term temporary plan

Wish List: Pension reform, no new taxes

State Senate

The GOP-controlled State Senate has come out against the short-term plan, hoping instead to hash out a comprehensive long-term solution with the Governor and the House.

Last week, the State Senate pushed through the pension reform bill rejected by the House, as well as a bill allowing grocery stores and restaurants to sell wine.

The upper chamber, controlled by Majority Leader Jake Corman, has been Wolf’s biggest ally recently, supporting the $30.8 billion spending plan and $1 billion in new taxes Wolf has called for.

Ideal Budget: $30.8 billion

Wish List: Liquor privatization, Pension reform

20 Responses

  1. will somebody please explain why all of the house democrats voted against the Pension proposal after the democratic leadership had agreed to the framework? did the proposal change between the time the Governor and the 4 caucus chairs announced their agreement and the vote last saturday?

  2. Let’s pick apart your questions.

    1) Yes they are better educated now. If you look at the modern high school curriculum, it dives deeper into nearly every subject than it did for the previous generation, all while keeping up with technology that is developing faster than ever

    2) Everything costs more today, welcome to the most basic level of economics. Remember what a movie ticket used to cost? Just going on this century, movie tickets over the past 15 years have increased in cost by roughly 60%. The increase state spending on education per pupil in that window has been almost identical. Sorry you can’t get a coke for a nickel anymore, Biff.

    3) Once again you agree with our great Governor. Wolf proposed a moratorium on new building with the additional state funds in his original budget. The goal was for the money to go into the classroom. But unfortunately our friends in the legislature, your heroes, decided that money was better kept in corporate pockets of gas executives in Texas.

    Don’t worry though, aaron, it will totally trickle down and then we can have all the jobs and freedom you could ever dream of in your little under-educated head.

  3. Larry – are kids today better educated now than they were 20 or 30 years ago? No. Do we continue to spend more and more on education? Yes. Why do we spend many multiples compared to other countries and still have poorly educated kids? More money to re’turf high school football fields and offer tolerance classes is not the way to go.

  4. Don’t start with property taxes! The volatile property taxes that seniors struggle with would have seen their greatest remedy in the governor’s budget he proposed in April. His plan had massive property tax cuts as well as a strong set of rules to prevent districts from raising them unnecessarily. Local tax increases fall directly at the feet of the House GOP and their no tax suicide pact. Money needs to come from somewhere. There are contracts and bills you can’t just wish away. Take responsibility and stop being a child. Or fund education and we’ll have fewer fully grown children like you.

  5. Test scores are a poor way to judge. The tests change (see below), and even then they are not any kind of perfect science for achievement in school. If you don’t know that, you’ve never had kids (or paid attention to them). Adding funding doesn’t hurt schools, it helps, particularly in low-income areas. Give them enough funding that doors can open, students have seats, teachers have chalk, then get to the details of how to best allocate and use those funds.

  6. All the while, seniors on fixed incomes have to choose between their medication, food or paying their school property taxes each month. It’s disgusting.

  7. Larry – until sweeping reforms take place in education that will lead to better results, I’m not for just throwing more money at it. We’ve done that for how many years now and test scores among our kids have continually gone down.

  8. You try and turn every argument into black and white when there are shades of gray in all of these issues. I agree that there are glaring inefficiencies in our education system and that it can be done better. But that doesnt mean we should just suffocate it in the name of Grover Norquist because all hope is lost. A wise man once said, “only a sith deals in absolutes”

  9. You come up with a number – a dollar value – that would make our kids the brightest in the world – and I’ll agree to it. Unfortunately we spend multiples of what other countries around the world spend on education – are our kids getting any smarter? No. Throwing money at education without significant reforms is a waste.

  10. oh im the heartless one? This coming from the guy not willing to share a small sliver of his paycheck to support our failing schools that the last dolt of a governor eviscerated. you and your tea party act like noble protectors of the people from the money grubbing government, but clinging relentlessly to just cutting taxes destroys government, it doesn’t make it leaner and meaner like you all dream. You are an anarchist, no one is fooled into thinking it’s patriotism.

    8,382 coal jobs in PA. Evem if you cut every single one it wouldn’t be as many jobs lost as corbett’s cuts to education (10k)

    I am not quickly finding a similar study into shale jobs but if you ignore the jokingly inflated numbers from the MSC, it’s still not that many. Besides, Mr. Western PA aaron, have you been to a shale pad? you ever see the license plates that litter the cars parked there? Lot of Texas and Oklahoma, not a lot from the commonwealth.

    You see today that your party in this state is dominated but a bunch of substance-less gas bags that cannot even figure out what they want from budget negotiations. They are traitors to the commonwealth and to the country and it’s people like you, admittedly biased (and probably racist) against half of the state, who enable the cancer in harrisburg to spread rather than supporting good governors who come in looking for solutions.

  11. “and its really not that many jobs”…TO THE PERSON WHO LOSES THEIR JOB, ITS ALOT OF JOBS! what an elitist, arrogant comment

  12. U must be from Philly area Larry. The western half of the state has more people working in coal mines and gas companies than in virtually any other major industry. Besides, it wouldn’t generate anything close to what is needed to increase spending. No new taxes. Period.

  13. Oh no has Wolf canceled Christmas??? Wolf will go down in history for being worse then Corbett… And did it in less then a year.

  14. aaron give up your caveman gop talking points and try to think logically. would these companies completely stop their operation on the most prolific resource in the country because of a slight hit to their margins? I agree with pottedplant that the state revenues wouldnt be as significant with the low cost of gas and that is having a slight dampening effect on the industry, but the jobs arent changing just because of 5% off the top. besides, it’s really not that many jobs, same as the coal jobs myth.

  15. Why is GOP willing to continue free ride for gas extraction in PA when no other State does it? Who got paid off? It’s not like the gas companies can move the gas elsewhere before taking it out of the ground.

  16. Increase salaries and eliminate pensions and other perquisites for new employees statewide. You cannot have both. Throwing money at education does not work. It has never worked.

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