No fruitful bi-partisanship, little voter power in Pa.
W e wholeheartedly agree with Clearfield area state Rep. Scott Conklin’s “Enough is enough” opinion piece published in Saturday’s Express.
Conklin is telling the General Assembly — the House and Senate — to stop the bullcrap in Harrisburg and get to work to adopt a fiscal year 2017-2018 budget for Pennsylvania.
Republican lawmakers who have majorities in the Legislature cannot agree on how to pay for about $2.2 billion needed to balance the proposed budget.
As explained by the conservative Commonwealth Foundation, in three days last week, these tax hikes were shot down:
r On Oct. 2, lawmakers discussed imposing the sales tax on commercial storage, something Gov. Tom Wolf had proposed in his original budget. But when warehousing companies and local chambers explained that would drive business to other states, bipartisan opposition killed that idea.
r On Oct. 3, the discussion turned to an additional 5 percent hotel tax. This tax, on top of the state sales tax and local hotel taxes, would have made Philadelphia and Pittsburgh first and second in the nation in hotel taxes. Like the warehouse tax, the hotel tax garnered little support and died before the night was over.
r By last Wednesday, Gov. Wolf and the House Democratic leaders forced a procedural vote on a Marcellus Shale natural severance tax bill. The voted failed with bipartisan opposition–only 83 House members supported it (19 shy of the minimum needed to pass it). It was the second time in three years the House has effectively voted on a severance tax, both times defeating it with bipartisan opposition.
There are proposals to further tax residential, commercial and industrial utility costs, raise the tobacco tax, and expand gambling statewide, including over the internet.
Lawmakers also talked about raiding existing state funds dedicated to protecting the environment to plug the budget hole.
Failure of the Legislature to come together on a full budget exposes the deep rift among Republicans in the House and Senate over how to fully pay for state government.
Pennsylvania is three months into a new fiscal year without an approved revenue package to fully fund a nearly $32 billion budget bill lawmakers passed June 30.
Meanwhile, $650 million in aid to five schools — Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities; the University of Pittsburgh; and the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school — is stuck in limbo, and Wolf and House Republicans have blamed the failure of a revenue package on each other.
Who else and what other institutions are being held hostage over this?
What a sad state our state is in.
We’ve said it before and repeat it here: Elected members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate should have their paychecks withheld until they adopt a completed budget each year, and they should not be able to take any extended work breaks until a spending plan is adopted.
But the reality is that, in Pennsylvania, voters and taxpayers really don’t have much say. The Legislature has made that the case over the years.
Statewide referendums that would reform our government — yes, it’s time for a part-time Legislature — are very difficult to get on the ballot.
Anyone else out there feeling powerless over all of this, too?