Saturday, May 28, 2011

The House Republican Budget: a series of false claims, mistruths and inconsistent statements

As if listening to the House Republicans defend their budget on the House floor wasn't enough, I'm a glutton for punishment and spent some time over the past few days reading and watching their media releases, newspaper interviews and television segments.

I've heard a number of claims and inconsistent statements which bear repeating, primarily to correct the record.

Claim #1, The Republican budget restores education funds slashed by Gov. Corbett.

As a trained architect, I know a thing or 2 about "restoration." And I know if I had only done a demolition of a home and claimed it was a restoration, I'd be in for a lawsuit. So when the governor's budget called for cutting education by $1.6 billion, it was hard for the House GOP not to do better, but to claim they restored the education cuts is bogus.  The Majority Appropriations Chairman and budget's author, backed off such claims at the one meeting the committee held to examine his plan, the GOP doesn't provide a "restoration" at all, the GOP's plan amounts to schools receiving $900 million less than last year.

Of course if I were a member of House GOP's leadership whose school districts got cut to the tune of $39 a student versus, low income districts cut by $2443 a kid, I'd probably be ok with the budget reduction too.

And you know your plan is flawed when the Senate Majority Leader, Republican Dominic Pileggi says he thinks the Senate can do a better job of allocating education funding (he represents both of the above school districts, by the way).

Claim #2, The passage of this budget puts PA on a path to an on time budget.

I've read a couple statements from Republican rank-and-file Norquist-pledging cult member freshmen say that passing this budget is "another step in the process to deliver a budget on time."

If passing a budget on time were just about when the House passes a plan and it moves to the Senate, I guess when the House passed its General Appropriations bill March 24 last year, a full two months before the GOP this year, we were really on the right track. It took an appalling 9 weeks for the House GOP leadership to introduce this failing plan.

What freshmen don't realize is that we in the House have no control over when the Senate acts, and no control over how they'll amend the House Republican's budget.

We've seen already that Senate leader's intentions run counter to what the governor and House GOP back, whether it be a Marcellus Shale fee or use of the $500 million surplus.

It seems the House GOP is more concerned with an on time budget than a quality budget. But if having it enacted by June 30 is their goal, I wouldn't rest so easy just yet.

Claim #3, Is it or isn't it a "surplus"?

Any number of Republicans stood up on the House floor last week and said the Democrats were mistaken, the $500 million extra dollars of tax revenue the Commonwealth has received through April wasn't a surplus; it was simply revenue over projection.

I'm guessing not all the Rs received the same talking points, because in a press release dating May 10 from the GOP Policy chairman it was referred to as a "surplus" and " extremely good news and a great sign..."

It is not every day I agree with my GOP counterpart, but this time he is right.

Claim #4, There are no projects like the Arlen Specter Library in the Republican budget

I still hear some of my colleagues in the GOP leadership sounding off about projects from last year under Gov. Rendell like the Arlen Specter Library (at Philadelphia University) and the John P. Murtha Center for Public Policy (at Pitt's Johnstown campus), which were scheduled to receive a combined $20 million, would have spurred construction and economic growth, would have been at institutions higher learning in the Commonwealth, and were approved by Senate Republican leaders. Important to note, nearly a year later, funding for these projects has still not been awarded, and likely won't be.

What I haven't heard is equal aggravation about Gov. Corbett's $2.1 billion slush fund, the Liberty Loan Fund, a repeated topic of this blog. The Republican Appropriations chairman admitted publicly he knows nothing more than the minority party on this fund, but still included it in his budget plan. And further, other than being a gimmick to give the governor unabated control of economic development monies, read: WAMS, it is partially funded through from Tobacco Settlement monies, which are supposed to go to health related purposes, like adultBasic, which was eliminated in March.

So where is the House GOP's rage on the Liberty Loan Fund?

The House GOP wanted its turn to lead, but leading doesn't include looking in the rearview at the last governor's administration.