Sep. 16, 2015

On March 3, 2015, Governor Tom Wolf introduced a budget with one of the largest tax increases in Pennsylvania history, totaling $4.6 billion. Wolf’s proposal would have provided for some property tax relief; however, Lancaster County taxpayers would have paid nearly $86 million more in sales and income taxes than they would have received in property tax relief. Does that sound like a good deal?

For three months, the leadership of the House and Senate met with the Governor to reach a compromise on the budget. As Governor Wolf was not willing to compromise on his tax proposal, his original tax plan was brought before the House of Representatives for a vote. On June 1, his proposed tax plan was voted on and did not receive a single vote from either a Democrat or Republican. Think of it. Not a single Democrat voted for it. One would think the Governor would get the message.

With this vote in mind, the Legislature crafted a balanced budget that contained no tax increases and placed it on the desk of the Governor on June 30. Within one hour, Governor Wolf vetoed the budget. Instead of using his power of executive authority to cancel only the disputed provisions of the budget, he vetoed the entire budget. Name one governor in the past 40 to 60 years that ever vetoed an entire budget: Rendell, Shapp, Leader, Shafer? I don’t think you will find one.

In the Legislature’s proposed budget, 274 of the 411 line items were funded at the same level as the Governor’s original budget proposed in March. This total budget veto has created an emergency funding situation for many social service and educational institutions in Pennsylvania, as their line items were vetoed along with the entire budget.

On August 24, the House attempted to override the veto of 20 line items where the lack of funding to agencies had become an emergency situation. The override vote was defeated, as it could not garner the needed two-thirds vote in the House. There was not one vote of support from a Democrat. Again, the harsh reality is that those who voted “no” voted against providing funding for the organizations that need it most.

In mid-August, prior to the veto override vote, Legislative leaders had offered to provide $400 million in new basic education funding in exchange for pension reform and privatization of state-owned wine and spirits stores. The Governor expressed interest in the proposed compromise saying: "We started these conversations with the idea that I would be willing to make some big concessions and compromises on pensions, which is important to them, and I need them to move into my camp on education. They've done, I think, a pretty good job of it.” To date there has been no response or overtures from the Governor’s office on this compromise.

Governor Wolf continues to insist on the need to adopt his budget in spite of the financial stress that has been inflicted on human service organizations and schools. Because of the Governor’s total veto, the most vulnerable members of our community are being used as leverage for the Governor’s tax and spend plan. This is unacceptable.

It is important that we do everything possible to provide funding for those educational and social services agencies that are facing an urgent lack of funding. I will continue to encourage the leadership in both the House and Senate to take the next step in resolving the budget impasse by proposing a stop-gap budget. This would allow funding to flow to agencies at last year’s levels and allow us to focus on the unresolved line items. It is unrealistic for a governor to hold fast to the provisions of a budget, which did not garner one vote from either party in the House of Representatives. Democracy requires a negotiated majority vote from both chambers and a realistic executive branch, and it is my hope we move in that direction.

Representative Steven Mentzer
97th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Eric Reath
717.260.6187 /