Jul. 24, 2015

The recent state budget approved by the General Assembly and sent to the governor would have achieved the goals of being balanced and keeping spending to a minimum while dedicating record funding for education without any new or increased taxes.

Our plan would have provided an additional $100 million for basic education, $20 million for special education, $30 million for early childhood education; $10 million for the state’s Veterans Homes, $96 million for home- and community-based services, and $41 million for services to persons with disabilities. These are only some of the many increases we were able to provide under our plan through eliminating waste and reallocating other money to make it work smarter and go further. And again, all of this was achieved without any new or increased taxes.

Our plan was a stark contrast to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget plan which wants to increase spending by unprecedented amounts and pay for it through massive tax hikes on Pennsylvania citizens. Although he doesn’t talk about it much publicly, the bulk of the tax money he wants to raise would come from increased income taxes and an increased and expanded sales tax impacting the hard-working people of Pennsylvania. In fact, he has proposed the largest tax increase in Pennsylvania history.

And, it is important to recognize that more than $4.5 billion of the funding for his spending plan would come from you and me, the taxpayers. I say this because he keeps telling people his plan hinges on a severance tax on natural gas drillers, but that’s false.

What the governor is purposefully declining to admit is that his total tax plan would consist of about $165.7 million in taxes collected from the natural gas industry – while he would need more than $4.5 billion in new taxes from you in order for his plan to work.

The governor is also stating that his budget plan would reduce property taxes. In reality, when factoring in what the average Pennsylvanian would be paying in higher income and sales taxes, taxpayers in four out of every five school districts would actually end up paying more in taxes under the governor’s plan than they would ever get back in the form of “relief.”

I know property taxes are a problem, but gimmicks like the governor is proposing are not going to help anyone. We need real reform, which is why I voted to supportHouse Bill 504, which would reduce property taxes dollar for dollar with school property taxes being reduced by 40 percent to 60 percent for Pennsylvania homeowners when combined with additional reductions offered through gaming and homestead exclusions. This would be real, substantial reform. That legislation is currently before the state Senate for consideration.

It is also worth noting that the governor’s tax plan – word for word – was brought before the state House for a vote on June 1 and not one single person, Republican or Democrat, voted in favor of it. Yet, he is continuing to try and sell that same plan to the people of Pennsylvania as what’s best for the state.

What is truly disappointing is that we agree with the governor on the need to allocate more money to education, and we did that under the plan he vetoed. In fact, we agreed with the governor on a lot of items. So much so, that nearly 70 percent of the budget we presented to the governor contained the same (and in some instances more) funding than his budget proposed. So why veto the entire budget? He had the ability to only veto the portions of the budget which were in disagreement. Instead, he vetoed the entire budget, thereby withholding nearly $13 billion in state funds from state agencies and government service providers.

If Wolf’s budget standoff continues for an extended period of time, General Fund appropriations that will either in whole or in part have funds withheld as a result of his blanket veto include basic education funding, special education funding, rape crisis services, cancer screening services, services for those with intellectual disabilities, newborn screening, autism intervention, mental health services and much more.

I am hopeful we can reach a budget compromise quickly before social services are threatened to reduce services or close. I will continue to keep you updated as we move forward.

Representative Rich Irvin
81st Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tricia Lehman
RepIrvin.com / Facebook.com/RepIrvin