We are three weeks into an unnecessary budget stalemate. By vetoing a responsible spending plan, Gov. Tom Wolf is withholding billions of dollars in undisputed state and federal funds, since two-thirds of the line items in that plan distributed either the same or more money than he requested. While the governor does have line-item veto power, he chose to veto the entire plan, something that has not happened in more than 40 years. Does this sound like “working with the Legislature” to you? It doesn’t sound that way to me either.
Here are some of the features of the balanced budget Wolf vetoed: an additional $100 million investment in Pre-K-12 education, more than any budget in Pennsylvania’s 239-year history; a $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts; a $5 million increase in Headstart; a $20 million increase in special education funding; more money for our higher education institutions; key investments in agriculture (Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry); hiring of 350 new troopers; and increased funding for critical health line items - all without raising your taxes.
What could motivate a governor to veto such a compassionate plan in its entirety? One thing alone – the governor is trying to force the legislature to raise your taxes by $4.7 billion this year alone. That is more than the tax increases proposed in the other 49 states combined and the largest tax increase in our state’s history. Doing more for the Commonwealth is not enough for this governor. He will not be satisfied unless the “more” includes tax increases.
The Wolf mantra is that Gov. Corbett’s administration cut state education funding in his first year of office and the governor wants to fix that. He has repeated it so often, and it was reported by the media numerous times without any challenge to its truth, that many believe it to be true.
Factually, Gov. Ed Rendell received federal stimulus money in 2009, with $1.7 million earmarked for education. In a slight of hand that would amaze even famed illusionist Harry Houdini, Rendell cut the state contribution (more than $654,000 in 2009-10 and more than $1 billion in 2010-11), backfilled it with the federal money and declared he had increased educational funding.
So what’s the problem? The federal money was supposed to be supplemental and not to be used for programs that would have to be maintained after 2011 when the money would run out. But if Rendell was using stimulus money to backfill the state’s contribution, how could the stimulus money avoid being used for basic needs? Those needs still had to be met.
Along comes Corbett, who without access to federal stimulus money, still managed to increase the state’s contribution above the Rendell allocation. But the comparison Wolf uses is not the state allocation in 2010-11 (Rendell) compared to state allocation in 2011-12 (Corbett), but rather to the state allocation added to federal stimulus in 2010-11 (Rendell with Obama) compared to state allocation alone in 2011-12 (Corbett). Wolf then vetoes the entire spending plan because it doesn’t make up for the Corbett “cuts.” While that makes for great sound bites, it is in fact not true.
So now we see no excuse remains for vetoing an entire budget. This is simply showmanship for the sake of looking like a leader. But a true leader does not manipulate the truth, use scare tactics and stalemates, and cover it all up with political ads. Instead, true leaders quietly, persistently and diplomatically work toward solutions – leaders like those in our General Assembly.
As the budget talks continue, the Legislature remains committed to working on an agreement that meets Pennsylvania’s needs, while being accountable to the taxpayers we represent. I encourage Wolf to join us.
Representative Will Tallman
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Scott Little