PA-BGT: Wolf, GOP Spar over Education Funding

wolf-budget addressGovernor Wolf is taking the budget fight to the schools…literally.

As part of the Gov’s “Schools that Teach” tour (you’ll remember that is one of his budget’s three pillars), Wolf visited Downingtown School District.

“The people of Pennsylvania want funding for education, and they support a commonsense severance tax to pay for it,” Governor Wolf said. “While my budget proposes a historic $1 billion investment in education at all levels, including $500 million for K-12 education, the Republican budget continues the handouts for oil and gas companies and the underfunding of our schools. Their budget includes only $8 million for education — that’s less than 3 cents, per child, per day.”

The Governor went on to assert that his budget plan would provide $1.3 million in additional funding to the Downingtown School District, while the Republican’s budget would grant just $300,000 more.

“Just days after vetoing the largest state budget in Pennsylvania history, it looks like Tom Wolf is headed back to the campaign trail,” responded PA GOP Communications Director Megan Sweeney. “Tom Wolf vetoed a historic state investment in our schools because it was paid for without raising taxes.”

“Tom Wolf’s tax hikes would cost residents of the Downingtown Area School District nearly $27 million in new taxes like a diaper and day care tax,” she continued. “It’s no wonder that Governor Wolf’s budget was unanimously rejected in the State House. It’s time for Tom Wolf to step off of the campaign trail and join with Republicans in supporting a fiscally responsible budget.”

Wolf and Corman

Wolf’s Press Secretary Jeffrey Sheridan also came out swinging against Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman today. While the Administration has frequently been sending out emails defending their plan and poking holes in the GOP budget, direct attacks have been rare for them.

“The refusal by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Republican leaders to accept basic math and acknowledge Pennsylvania’s massive structural budget deficit is the sole obstacle preventing budget talks from moving forward,” the email begins.

Sheridan goes on to accuse Sen. Corman of flip-flopping on tax increases.

“Strangely, today’s Senator Corman doesn’t agree with the Senator Corman of the past. Senator Corman’s leadership title seems to have shifted his ideals on budgeting and financial planning.”

They point to two statements from Corman to illustrate this point, one from yesterday and the other from last year:

“I think it needs to be made very clear that this is going to be awhile as long as the governor holds on to the need for broad-based tax increases,”  Corman said as he left his early afternoon meeting. “We’re certainly at an impasse over broad-based taxes… Those broad-based tax increases are not going to be a part of the discussions, and that’s what he wants and until that issue can be resolved, we’re going to be here awhile.” [Harrisburg Patriot-News, 07/07/15]

“Sooner or later, a broad-based tax increase will be necessary to pay for it,” Corman said. “Whether that’s next year or the year after that, I don’t know. But they’re increasing at a billion dollars a year and revenues aren’t keeping up.” [Associated Press, 06/28/14]

The not exactly subtle insinuation from the Wolf team is that Corman was fine with tax increases when Gov. Corbett was in charge but is now against them under the new Governor.

UPDATE: Press Secretary for the Senate Republican Caucus Jennifer Kocher issued the following response to PoliticsPA:

This type of missive from the Governor’s office is nothing new. When confronted with an issue, they attack the messenger.

What this history lesson left out is the context of how restructuring the pension system affects any need to raise taxes. Through a historic $10 billion reform of the state’s public sector pension system, the General Assembly actually made the better – and in some ways more difficult choice – to address the state’s ever increasing pension problem.

We would welcome an end to the campaign rhetoric and an acknowledgement of the issue at hand – Gov. Wolf does not have the votes in the General Assembly to pass his massive income and sales tax increases.

The fact is Gov. Wolf swiftly vetoed a common-sense budget plan that provided a record $10.6 billion to PreK-12 education, adopted efficiencies in government, generated new revenues by privatizing an archaic liquor system rather than relying on the billions of dollars in tax increases Gov. Wolf proposes.

Gov. Wolf doesn’t want to spend what money he has, he wants to spend money he wishes he had. It’s pretty easy to be for the spending part but when families understand that the majority of the money to pay for the increased spending is coming from their pockets, it’s a different story. He travels around the state at taxpayer expense telling people how he will spend the money, but he is not being honest about how he will pay for it.

Under the Wolf plan, taxpayers will have to pay significantly more in income taxes and more on daycare, home health, nursing home care, funeral expenses and other services to pay for this plan. It’s $2.5 billion in income and sales tax increases that has yet to receive one affirmative vote in the General Assembly.

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  5. Given that every elected board member in my school district is opposed to raising property taxes, I won’t be facing that scenario. I can’t speak for all PA school districts, but mine is elected in off-off year elections. That means the vote totals are in the 100’s. As an individual citizen, I have much more control of who sits on my local school board than I do in the make up of the state government.
    If you think an under-educated population is due to a lack of school funding, then why do urban school districts with the highest spending/pupil ratios have the worst results.

  6. And how loud will you scream, WesternPA_Pete, when your local school district raises your property taxes? And how loud will you scream when the state has to raise taxes to pay for prisons and social services due to an undereducated population?

  7. Hey Larry I went to Parochial School and I was a school board president of a great Public School System. You are completely wrong about Parochial being better. Remember Private schools do not have Special Needs Children. Who teaches them? WHEN Private schools accept and teach all children then we can have a discussion between the two systems.

  8. Fiscall responsibility also includes controlling spending. $10 billion in education spending is not chump change. If certain school districts want to spend more, they are free to raise taxes on their citizens.

  9. A historic billion dollars, great. He could put a trillion dollars into education and the PSEA would call for more money for education. More union jobs and bennies with no actual improvement for education. The public school teachers, if they had any shame, would be embarrassed at how parochial schools do so much more with so much less.

  10. ” join with Republicans in supporting a fiscally responsible budget”

    When did the Republicans decide to start looking at fiscally responsible budgets, let alone supporting them?

    This sounds like a radical new approach for them.

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