Standing up to Bullies: Pennsylvania Lawmakers look to California for Help
Berated with calls for billions of dollars in tax increases, cajoled by Governor Jerry Brown and pressured by Democratic colleagues, Republicans in the California legislature stood strong last month and prevented Democrats from passing any of the more than $20 billion in higher taxes that were proposed.
After approving a historically high budget just months ago, Gov. Brown and legislative Democrats argued that California needed higher car and gas taxes to address transportation needs, citing $59 billion in deferred roadway maintenance, and an estimate that 87 percent of county roads have an average pavement rating of “at risk” or “poor.”
Governor Jerry Brown had proposed a $3 billion tax increase through an annual $65 fee to drive on highways, as well as a gas and diesel tax hike of 6 cents and 11 cents per gallon, respectively. Earlier in the special session, democratic lawmakers had demanded an even greater tax hike for road repairs. Legislative Democrats called for raising $4.3 billion annually through a 12 cent gas tax increase and an annual $100 fee on zero-emission vehicles.
The ability of California Republicans to remain unified is the only thing that saved California taxpayers from another massive tax hike. Faced with a similar situation in the Keystone State, Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature have much to learn from California Republicans about the importance of sticking together.
Pennsylvania’s first term Governor Tom Wolf, perhaps the nation’s most liberal governor, refuses to sign a budget unless the tax hikes he has proposed are included. Gov. Wolf is insisting on a massive tax hike in a state where the tax burden is already far too high. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania’s state and local income tax collections per person are 14th highest nationally, and Pennsylvania’s tax burden is 10th highest in the nation.
As in California, the only thing standing in the way of a giant tax hike are Republican legislators. California Republicans, by remaining unified as a caucus, did what voters put them in office to do and stopped a liberal governor hell bent on raising taxes. For the sake of Pennsylvania taxpayers, Republicans in Harrisburg should do likewise.