Wolf Calls Republican Budget “Ridiculous” “Garbage.” Promises Line-Item Veto
Last week, in a pre-Christmas shocker, the state’s Senate — contrary to reports that they’d reached an agreement with Gov. Tom Wolf on his “framework” budget — reversed course and signed off on the House’s “stopgap” version of the state spending bill. When Wolf’s swift response did not include the word “veto” (he’d previously promised to strike down the stopgap version should it make it to his desk), many wondered if the state’s protracted, damaging and — let’s be frank — embarrassing budget standoff had finally ended.
Not so fast! In a statement yesterday, Wolf showed his veto pen is not just for show.
“I am going to exercise my constitutional right to line item veto this ridiculous exercise in budget futility,” said Wolf in a Harrisburg press conference (full remarks below). I’m calling on our legislators to get back to Harrisburg — back to the work they left unfinished last week. In the meantime, I’m vetoing their $95 million cut to education. I’m also vetoing other items that they don’t pay for.”
Wolf said he is allowing the release of emergency funding for schools, human service agencies and Pennsylvania’s counties — reportedly $23.4 billion — but emphasized that it was only being done on an emergency basis.
Then Wolf told us how he really feels:
“In doing this, I’m expressing the outrage that all of us should feel about the garbage the Republican legislative leaders have tried to dump on us. This budget is wrong for Pennsylvania. And our legislators — the folks we elected to serve us — need to own up to this. They need to do their jobs. This budget is wrong for so many reasons.”
In response, House Majority Leader Dave Reed took to Facebook to express his “appreciation” that the governor has released “some of his hostages” by sending money to schools and other programs, but chastised what he characterized as a continued tax-and-spend agenda:
“The governor just announced he will veto part of the budget passed by the House and Senate last week. While I am appreciative that the governor will finally release some of his hostages and send some of the monies out to our schools and human service programs, it is disturbing to realize that his partial veto is reflective of his demand for a higher sales or income tax to spend even more money.
Apparently a $30.3 billion budget that increases education spending by over $400 million without sales or income tax increases is just not enough. When is enough…enough?”
Later in the day Tuesday, in response to news that Republican leadership had sent their caucuses home (but to continue remain on six-hour call) through Sunday, January 3rd, Wolf called the decision “Unacceptable. They need to get back here and finish the work they left undone before hurrying out of town for vacation.”
PennLive’s Charles Thompson surmised that Wolf’s action averts immediate crisis, and allows “the almost-perfect political stalemate created by the Democratic governor and the Republican legislative leaders” to continue without continuing to affect the state’s most vulnerable.
To be continued, undoubtedly.
Governor Wolf’s full remarks in Harrisburg below:
REMARKS: Governor Wolf Rejects Republican Cut to Education; Releases Emergency Funding
Harrisburg, PA – The following are remarks as prepared given by Governor Wolf at a press conference in Harrisburg.
“I am going to exercise my constitutional right to line item veto this ridiculous exercise in budget futility. I’m calling on our legislators to get back to Harrisburg – back to the work they left unfinished last week. In the meantime, I’m vetoing their $95 million cut to education. I’m also vetoing other items that they don’t pay for.
“At the same time, I’m allowing emergency funding for our schools to get out. I’m also letting funding go out to our human service agencies and to our counties. But this is on an emergency basis only.
“In doing this, I’m expressing the outrage that all of us should feel about the garbage the Republican legislative leaders have tried to dump on us. This budget is wrong for Pennsylvania. And our legislators – the folks we elected to serve us – need to own up to this. They need to do their jobs. This budget is wrong for so many reasons
“First, it doesn’t balance. Even with the numbers presented to me by the Republicans before they ran out of town just before the Christmas holiday. This budget doesn’t add up. In fact it leaves a half a billion dollar hole for this year (2015-16). And a $2 billion hole for next year.
“There’s a reason why the outside rating agencies have downgraded our debt. They’re telling the world what our legislators want to ignore. Our fiscal house is a mess.
“Second, this pretend budget doesn’t make the investments a prudent state government should make, in things like education.
“This exercise in stupidity actually cuts education funding by $95 million compared to the draconian Corbett budgets. It does add a modest amount in basic education funding, but then it takes out over $300 million to be used for school construction
“By the way, before they left town, our legislators also neglected to provide any funding for Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Lincoln University, Temple, Penn School of Veterinary Science. The budget they concocted doesn’t have enough revenue to leave any room for doing anything to increase funding for our state universities over 2014-15 levels.
“This budget is doubly frustrating because we were so close to a reasonable one. I had worked patiently and persistently with Republican leaders over the past many months to agree on a compromise budget.
“That compromise budget was in balance. That compromise budget invested in our kids and our schools. That compromise budget also included historic pension reform and historic liquor reform. That compromise budget actually passed the Republican dominated Senate by a vote of 43-7. And it passed the House on a number of preliminary votes.
“Then, before the final vote, the Republican House leaders told their members to go home. I get it that everyone is tired of this stalemate. But we were almost there. And this makes what they did all that much more unconscionable. They simply left town before finishing their jobs.
“They can deny what they did. They can try to justify what they did. They can throw around all the political nonsense they want, but the fact remains. They ran off – pretty quickly at that – before they finished their job and they left us with a real holiday mess. Let’s not kid ourselves; we still need a budget.
“We need one that actually adds up, this year and next. We need one that fully funds the needs of our schools. We need one that really covers the cost of our state. We need to pass the budget that the Senate and House passed – Senate Bill 1073. And that I’m ready to sign.
“If we don’t get this right, we will face massive cuts to education and human services next year. And we’ll see huge increases in local taxes and massive additional cuts to our local schools. Remember 2011? We need to get this right.
“So, to the legislators elected to do the people’s business: let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to the work the people of Pennsylvania sent you here to do. Let’s get back to work to finish the job you almost finished last week.”