Op-Ed: Wolf Holding Out for More of Your Tax Dollars

June 30th has come and gone, and while the legislature met its obligation to pass a balanced budget by the constitutionally required deadline, here we are two months later without a budget.  Are you still paying taxes?  I certainly am.

The state is still receiving the revenue needed to fund state agencies, service providers, and our schools.  Yet there is no authorization to spend that money because Governor Wolf chose to veto a budget that was balanced, did not raise taxes, and provided increased education funding.  Notably, two-thirds of the line items were funded at or above the amount that the Governor requested.

Governor Wolf had the power to use what is called a line-item veto.  This means that he could have chosen to strike out parts of the budget that he did not support, allowing the rest of the budget to become law.  Instead, he has left organizations in our communities scrambling to stay afloat because he insists on a tax and spend budget that exacerbates the problem that I continue to call attention to – Harrisburg does not have a revenue problem, Harrisburg has a spending problem.

Again, you continue to pay taxes, correct?  Have you renewed your vehicle registration or driver’s license recently?  You paid fees to the state for those services.  Have you filled your gas tank in the last two months?  You paid the nation’s highest gas tax – 51.6 cents per gallon went to Harrisburg.  Did your employer withhold taxes from your paycheck?  Your employer sent the money to the state, despite the lack of a budget.

So, clearly, we all keep sending our money to Harrisburg.  Yet, because of the stroke of a pen, your money is building up in the state’s bank account unable to be spent.

Many constituents have written to me asking me and my fellow legislators to come to the table and reach a compromise with the Governor. Our Republican leadership – from both the House and the Senate – presented a compromise budget framework to the Governor.  Two weeks later we still have no response from him.

I am adamant that we spend responsibly, implement needed reforms to reduce costs, and not continue throwing money at a broken education system.  The Governor continues to stand firm on his budget request with no willingness to compromise.

I am a private sector business owner, and I find it difficult to comprehend how Governor Wolf can believe that his tax and spend budget is best for Pennsylvania.  When a business is having difficulty financially, you don’t automatically start raising prices. You identify waste and do everything possible to rein in spending first.

So, why then does Governor Wolf feel the need to increase taxes for all of us without proposing any cost-saving measures?  And why does he think the natural gas industry should shoulder the burden of our broken education system?

While we may not be hearing threats of a “government shutdown” like we have years prior, rest assured that you will begin seeing the effects in your neighborhood, your town, or even your own home, as this budget impasse continues.

And actions by House Democrats speak volumes about where this process is headed.  Recently, House Republicans attempted to override the Governor’s veto for the two-thirds of the budget that was agreed to – and for those service organizations caught in the crossfire.  However, not a single House Democrat supported this effort and each override vote failed on the House floor.

Keep that in mind as news reports and the Governor continue to point the finger at the Republican-controlled legislature.  We passed a responsible budget on time.  We offered the Governor a counter budget proposal.  We attempted to approve specific line items to keep service providers in operation.  The Governor vetoed the entire budget.  The Governor has not responded to our counter proposal.  And the Democrats voted down the override attempts.

We need to come together to reach a compromise on this budget, but I was sent to Harrisburg to stand up for taxpayers, not special interests. In spite of the rhetoric that you hear from this Governor, he is holding out for more of your tax money and making no effort to control costs.

Governor Wolf claimed during his political campaign that he turned around his family business, which meant reining in and reducing costs.  Unfortunately, we haven’t seen him show a willingness to perform his private sector business magic on Pennsylvania.  Our state is financially distressed and needs a turnaround Governor, not a tax-and-spend Governor.

Until we finally come to an agreement, no matter how long it takes, you can be sure that I’ll be in Harrisburg fighting for the reforms that voters sent me to Harrisburg to get done.

Contact: Erin Marsicano, 717-787-3817