Nearly two months into Pennsylvania’s budget stalemate, Governor Tom Wolf (D) is still holding the state budget hostage while he demands more spending and billions in higher taxes.
Gov. Wolf vetoed the tax hike-free budget approved by the legislature in July and continues to stick by his own proposal which calls for $4 billion in higher taxes and nearly $5 billion in new spending. The week before last, Gov. Wolf offered a phony pension reform proposal structured to protect fat payouts. In response Senate Majority leader Jake Corman (R-Centre), referred to Wolf’s offer as “an alternative proposal, one that falls far, far short of anything that we would accept.”
Since his veto, no real progress has been made to pass the budget. Gov. Wolf and fellow democrats have refused to budge on education funding and the natural gas extraction tax. Last Tuesday, in response to Republican’s impasse-breaking offer which included a $400 million dollar increase in basic education funding, Wolf simply canceled the meeting. He explained his avoidance as a result of Republicans not discussing his proposed severance tax on natural gas.
It is clear through the 0-193 rejection of Gov. Wolf’s tax hike-laden budget that, despite bluster from Wolf’s fellow Democrats, there is simply no support in the legislature for what would be the largest tax hike in the nation. Given the apparent stalemate, Republican legislators have been looking at the possibility of overriding Gov. Wolf’s budget veto. Speaker Mike Turzai, (R-Allegheny), has already stated that “we have to look at overriding if we’re not going to have a substantive discussion.”
When Speaker Turzai argues Pennsylvanians already pay enough taxes and that the problem is on the spending side of the ledger, the facts are on his side. Pennsylvania already has the 10th highest state and local tax burden in the nation. In the decade from 1989 to 2009, had Keystone State lawmakers kept spending in line with inflation and population growth, they would’ve spent $302 billion less than they did. That’s a significant amount of taxpayer dollars that could’ve been put in a rainy day fund, returned to taxpayers, or both.
Pennsylvanians already contend with some of the highest taxes in the country and have been hit with over 20 federal tax increases since President Obama took office. The last thing they need are higher taxes imposed by Gov. Wolf.