I would have never seen that coming…oh, wait…I did.
Governor Wolf gave his budget address on March 3. Immediately after, Republicans took to the microphones decrying the fact that the new governor was proposing to do something different than they had done in consort with former Governor Tom Corbett in the prior four years.
Pennsylvania was facing a projected $2 billion structural deficit and Republicans felt confident that the governor would be forced to renege on his campaign pledges to restore funding for basic education and start turning the ship that was heading for the abyss. Surely, the governor would have to hunker down and look for gimmicks and one-time fixes just to get by and make it through another year while he waited for the economy to turn itself around.
While the structural deficit projection for this year has dropped to about $1.5 billion, if it is addressed by gimmicks and one-time fixes again as legislative Republicans propose, we are staring at a $2 billion structural deficit again next year. You can only transfer balances between credit cards and put off paying bills so long until the gig is up. We already know the consequences of these maneuvers…state bond rating downgrades, job losses, higher local property taxes and lower student performance.
Instead, Wolf is demanding that the legislature take action with proposed meaningful solutions to address the deficit and reinvest in education, restore former cuts to human services, provide a fair tax structure to encourage business growth and jobs, and deliver on property tax relief for homeowners. After four years of Republicans gimmicks and their current stance of perpetually neglecting the issues instead of facing them, one could speculate that they are ideologically opposed to the notion of fiscal responsibility. Proposing their own budget that ignores the fiscal crisis, points to the fact that they are more focused on philosophical wins for the fringe of their party than they are on producing a fiscally sound budget that prioritizes Pennsylvania’s citizens.
If the Republicans in the House and Senate want to debate ideology and pontificate about union busting, the perils of a living wage, the pitfalls of people actually having access to affordable healthcare, executive orders and booze in convenience stores, they have the power to call session days all summer long. But for them to refuse to deal with the fiscal issues of the state until their ideological needs are met is simply irresponsible.
It could prove to be a long summer.