Sep. 21, 2015

By Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming/Union) 84th Legislative District

I know the citizens of Pennsylvania are tired of hearing and reading about the General Assembly criticizing the governor and the governor blaming the General Assembly for the budget impasse in Pennsylvania. So, let’s take a look at the facts and drop the rhetoric for a minute:

• After attempting to work with the governor and administration for months to reach an agreed to budget, the General Assembly passed an on-time budget which fully and fairly funded all the needs of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
• Rather than accepting the vast majority of line items that matched in both the governor’s proposed budget and the budget passed by the General Assembly, the governor chose to veto the entire budget and kick off the funding crisis now faced by health and social service agencies and school districts.
• The General Assembly supports fair funding for our schools and human service programs, but not by taking excessive tax dollars away from hard-working families.
• The General Assembly continues to try to work with the governor on a realistic and affordable budget compromise.
• During the ongoing negotiations, the General Assembly wants to keep education and all services open for those who need and deserve them, so we will be voting a temporary funding to get needed resources to our schools, students, and health and human service agencies.

Where Things Are: We Need Temporary Funding

The Senate passed a temporary funding bill, Senate Bill 1000, last week and the House will take the bill up and ultimately pass it this week. The vast majority of the funding in the bill is at a four-month level based on the budget previously vetoed. The total temporary spending bill will provide $11 billion in state funds and pass through $24.3 billion in federal funds during this four month period.
This temporary funding will allow nonprofit health and human service agencies and school districts to receive the necessary funds to keep operating and support our communities while a final budget is worked out between the General Assembly and the governor.

This is not political theater – this is an honest attempt to provide critically needed funding to educate our children and provide services to our most vulnerable citizens while the philosophical and political issues between the governor and the General Assembly are resolved.
The bottom line is that school districts, health and human service agencies, children and individuals receiving critical services should not be negatively impacted nor used as pawns in this disagreement over the ultimate budget. We have the money in Harrisburg to meet these needs and there is absolutely no reason it should not be used now rather than withheld as political leverage.

Severance Tax for Education? – The Truth

The governor and his supporters continue to say that Pennsylvania should have a severance tax to fund education. Setting the overall severance tax discussion aside, the reality is that the governor’s budget proposes investing the severance tax proceeds in new alternative energy projects – not in education. It appears that he has adopted the strategy of, “If you tell an untruth enough times, it becomes the truth.”
The truth told by the numbers is that under the governor’s tax plan, of the $4.7 billion in new taxes he proposes for this year, only three cents of each new tax dollar would come from the severance tax and the majority of the remaining 97 cents would come out of the pockets of working Pennsylvanians and small business owners.

Some items that would be taxed:

• Toilet paper.
• Diapers.
• Child-care services.
• Long-term/skilled nursing care for seniors and the disabled.
• College textbooks and fees.
• Legal, accounting and other professional services.
• Drivers’ education.
• Diet and nutrition services.
• Alcohol and drug counseling, rehabilitation services, marriage counseling, family mediation services and parenting support services.

Just Compromise ?

While some of the media and progressive leaning groups continue their chorus that the General Assembly needs to “just compromise” or “just get it done,” what that would mean is huge tax and spending increases.

The General Assembly made a compromise offer that would have increased education spending to the level requested by the governor. After letting it sit on his desk for four weeks, last week the governor rejected it in whole, as he did the budget, and offered no budget alternative.
In short, so far, it has been “his way or no way.” In his press conference rejecting the compromise, the governor said, “I asked them to come back to me as to how we are going to pay for the things I want.” To say it another way, “I don’t care whose taxes you raise, just raise taxes so I can spend money on my priorities.” What has become obscured in the finger pointing is that the governor is proposing tax increases over the next five years which would total almost $9 billion – that is a 30 percent increase in taxes and spending – unheard of, unnecessary and absolutely unaffordable for taxpayers.

The General Assembly has tried, is trying and will continue to try to negotiate and compromise to reach a reasonable budget. However, the governor has not offered to compromise on a single item in his budget or on any of the hundreds of tax increases he proposes. In short – it takes two parties willing to compromise to have a negotiation and, to date, the governor has shown no willingness to negotiate in good faith or compromise. Until such time as he is ready to really negotiate and we can reach a final budget, state government has a responsibility to meet the needs of its citizens. It appears the only way to do that in the short term is with temporary funding. Hopefully the governor will agree, sign the bill, roll up his sleeves, sit down with the leaders of the General Assembly and reach a real and reasonable budget.

Representative Garth D. Everett
84th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Raymond Smith
717.705.1834 /