By Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin)
We are now four months into the 2015-16 fiscal year without a state operating budget. What does that mean? That means schools, government agencies and social service organizations like those that provide rape crisis services, cancer screenings, assistance for children with intellectual disabilities and many others do not receive essential state funding. Without this funding, services are beginning to be curtailed, hours and staff are being reduced, and in some extreme situations, schools and organizations are now in the position of having to consider shutting down completely.
Many people have asked, “Why aren’t you doing your job and passing a budget?” The answer is simple: House and Senate Republicans have been doing their job. We passed a balanced budget on June 30 that increased funding for schools and provided the same or even more funding for roughly 70 percent of the governor’s proposal. All accomplished without raising taxes. Unfortunately, the governor chose to veto the ENTIRE budget in order to try and pressure the Legislature to vote in favor of his plan to increase income and sales taxes on the working middle class. He wants to increase income taxes on the money you earn while also increasing taxes on the items and services you purchase. Additionally, he wants to expand the state sales tax to additional items like day care, nursing home care and college textbooks.
The truth is, on June 1 the House brought the governor’s taxation plan up for a vote and not one member, Democrat or Republican, voted for it. There is simply no support to further tax the people of this Commonwealth.
Following weeks of budget negotiations, the House extended an olive branch and offered the governor a compromise plan that would further increase education funding from the original $100 million in additional funding to $400 million more. After all, education is his top priority and we found a way to give him what he requested while still not raising taxes.
The governor took four weeks before coming back with an answer of “no.” During those four weeks, schools and social services continued to suffer. To help avoid these entities from hitting a crisis point, the House attempted to override the governor’s veto of those agencies and services that the House, Senate and governor all agreed upon. But the House Democrats would not support giving those agencies their funding.
That brings us to Sept. 24, when once again Republicans attempted to supply emergency funding for schools and critical social services that would provide funding to these agencies retroactively for a four-month period while negotiations continue on a final state budget. And, yet again, the governor has chosen to veto the measure.
For those of you keeping track, since June 30, Republicans have voted THREE TIMES to provide necessary funding to social service agencies in need, while the Democrats and Gov. Tom Wolf have denied these folks their money in order to put pressure on the Legislature to agree to higher taxes. Republicans also offered a compromise plan that included the governor’s request for additional education funding, and still he said “no.”
The governor has not backed down from any of his tax proposals; he still wants you – the citizens of Pennsylvania – to pay for his increased spending, and he is willing to hold schools and social service agencies hostage until he gets his way.
As stated by the governor at a press conference earlier this month about the budget, “I asked them to come back to me as to how we’re going to pay for the things I want.” This does not sound like a man who is ready to come to the table and work out a compromise plan.
Rest assured, House Republicans will continue to seek solutions to reach a final budget compromise to the benefit of all Pennsylvanians. We are doing our job; now we are waiting for the governor to finally do his job.
Representative Rob Kauffman
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman