July 10, 2014

Senate, House Democrat, Republican Leaders Decry Governor’s Budget Actions

You certainly expect Democrats to be critical of a Republican Governor, but Senate and House Republicans also took issue with Gov. Corbett’s line item veto going as far as calling some steps “likely unconstitutional” and leading from behind.
Republicans did confirm the budget was not agreed to by the Corbett Administration.
Senate, House Republicans
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre) and Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) issued the following statement in response to Gov. Corbett’s veto of State Budget lines and program cuts:
“Today the Governor unilaterally eliminated funding in the state budget, which was timely passed by the Senate and House of Representatives on June 30, 2014.
“The Governor’s line item veto included operating funds appropriated to the legislature.  These cuts were disproportionately directed at the Senate.  We have serious concerns with the ability of the Senate to function as a central figure in the legislative process with $30 million being stripped from our reserves.
“Over the past three years the Senate has taken a proactive role limiting operating costs and reducing legislative reserves, while preserving the ability to serve our constitutional role as a separate and independent branch of government.  Throughout this period the Senate has shared in the responsibility to decrease spending by returning over $27.2 million to the state.  
“Today the Governor also announced that he has cut, eliminated or placed in budgetary reserves several state programs directly, and through the unprecedented, and likely unconstitutional step of a line item veto to sections of the Fiscal Code bill.  It is horribly concerning that the Governor has elected to cut or withhold funds for items that include hospital programs for low income individuals, educational programs across the state, arts & cultural programs, job training programs & biotechnology research programs.
“The state budget process is not a game to be played and vital government programs should never be placed in jeopardy.  Putting the needs of Pennsylvania residents ahead of politics has always been, and continues to be our top priority.
“Reforming public pension benefits is an important goal that Senate Republicans have been engaged in for months.  On June 30, 2014, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 922, which takes an important first step to move all elected officials, including members of the General Assembly, out of a defined benefit public pension plan to remove this financial burden from taxpayers.
“We are not aware of, and the Governor has not explained the link between the elimination of funding for these programs, along with the legislature and achieving our mutual goal of public pension reform.  While we share the desire to enact statewide pension reform, linking pension reform to punitive program cuts is not a successful strategy.
“We are disappointed that the Governor has not, to date, been able to work effectively with the Republican majorities in the House and Senate to address important fiscal issues impacting our state.  However, we will not close our eyes to the needs of Pennsylvania residents, and we look forward to continuing to work with the House of Representatives and Gov. Corbett to make Pennsylvania a stronger state.”
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) told reporters, “The governor’s actions today seem to be about politics and not about the hard work of the government,” argued Rep. Turzai. “Between the House and Senate we sent him a budget that spent $29.1 billion, only 1.8 percent over last year’s budget.” Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal would have spent $29.4 billion, a 2.9 percent growth, he noted.
Rep. Turzai explained the executive branch’s expenditures have seen 16.4 percent growth while the legislature’s expenditure has grown by only 4.8 percent. He said he does not understand why the governor will not sign a budget that was delivered on time and includes his “most important request” for public education funding.
Rep. Turzai then discussed several pieces of legislation passed by the House of Representatives that have not been fully supported by the governor and given the extra push to pass in the Senate. He said liquor privatization is a prime example of the governor not working with House leadership to fix an issue he considered very important.
A member of the press asked if the governor’s lack of leadership was the cause of the problem. Rep. Turzai answered, “you cannot lead from behind; you’ve got to lead from the front.”
In response to another question about how the House Republicans ended up with a budget that was not agreed to with the Republican governor. Rep. Turzai answered the governor “could have been at the table” to negotiate, but was not.
Senate, House Democrats
Members of Senate Democratic Leadership issued the following statements concerning Gov. Tom Corbett’s line item veto of funding for the General Assembly.
Senate Democratic Leader, Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said: “Gov. Corbett’s action today clearly illustrates the Republican gridlock and dysfunction that has descended on state government. It is hard to fathom what Gov. Corbett believes he can achieve. This is a Republican budget mess, crafted solely by Republicans and delivered to the citizens of Pennsylvania by a party that lacks leadership at the top.
“The line-item veto of a portion of the General Assembly’s funding does nothing to address the needs of Pennsylvania. His actions today will not help schools students, job seekers or the vulnerable in need of assistance. The budget, and his actions, are politically-driven and do not solve problems.”
Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair, Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia) said: “The General Assembly is a co-equal branch of government and should not be held hostage to the ideological whims and political demands of a governor who is struggling to find his footing in an election year.
“His renewed call for the legislature to revisit a pension reform plan that could not navigate its way through the House, let alone the Senate, epitomizes a Republican Party that is bankrupt of ideas trying to push a pension plan that will bankrupt Pennsylvania’s taxpayers."
Senate Democratic Whip, Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia) said: “The governor’s actions today, and his indecision and dawdling over the last ten days, reinforce the need for Pennsylvania to go in a new direction. There is no question that we need leadership now because we are going the wrong way under Gov. Corbett.
“The budget that was passed is filled with gimmicks and accounting tricks, many of which the governor himself outlined. Renewing debate on a pension plan that is short-sighted and ill-constructed combined with a line-item veto of legislative funds will not force the General Assembly to buckle and act against the interest of the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
Three members of the House Democratic Leadership commented on Gov. Corbett’s signing of a late 2014-15 state budget with line-item vetoes of certain legislative funding.
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), said: “The governor is simply unwilling to face the reality that his policies have not worked and his time is up. It’s his fourth year in office and the state is in terrible financial shape.
“He cut a billion dollars from education in his first budget, and then locked in those cuts three years in a row. The $3 billion he cut from public education directly led to higher property taxes in almost every school district in the state.
“Tom Corbett made this mess. He owns it. It’s time for a fresh start.”
House Democratic Whip Mike Hanna (D-Clinton), said: “It’s clearer than ever that Gov. Corbett sees public-sector workers as the enemy. Good people doing important jobs are not the enemy – they are regular Pennsylvanians and they have earned the right to a secure retirement.
“By seeking to punish teachers, nurses, law enforcement officers, janitors and every other public worker for problems they did not cause, the leaders of the Republican Party continue to show how disconnected they are from the everyday reality of Pennsylvanians.”
Democratic Appropriations Chairman Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), said: “Gov. Corbett has failed to propose anything on pensions that would provide budgetary savings for the state or school districts without greatly increasing our long-term debt.
“He pushed for and got $2 billion in business tax cuts at a time when the state could not afford it. He cut billions from public education. If Gov. Corbett has his way, Pennsylvania will go further into pension debt just to help balance his election-year budget.”