Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is continuing now into its sixth week, as Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA) and the Democrats who control the state House of Representatives cannot agree with the Republicans who control the state Senate. State workers have seen their paychecks vanish, even while they have stayed on the job, and the legislature agreed to a stopgap funding bill which would pay state workers.
Gov. Rendell to sign temporary Pa. budget today¹
HARRISBURG – Gov. Rendell today is to sign into law a sharply pared-down budget bill that will allow the state to begin paying its employees again but withhold billions in state dollars for public schools, counties, and social-service organizations.
The skeleton measure is meant to be a temporary solution to the state’s budget stalemate, now in its second month. Rendell and top lawmakers are still wrangling over a spending plan for the fiscal year that began July 1, and they will continue their negotiations.
“The public has been frustrated by this budget impasse,” Rendell told reporters yesterday. “We all understand that frustration, and hopefully, we are going to roll up our sleeves and do something about it. We are not just sitting around doing nothing.”
That much is accurate and unobjectionable. But there is one sentence later in the article which tells us almost everything we need to know about Governor Rendell:
The governor, with the support of Democrats in the legislature, had been pushing for a 16 percent hike in the state’s personal-income tax rate. Rendell advocated the tax increase to help pay, in part, for more funding for schools.
Republicans who control the Senate have been dead set against any broad-based tax increase during a recession, saying such a move would only hurt working families. Instead, they have sought to rein in spending.
On Monday, however, the budget landscape shifted when House Democrats declared publicly for the first time that Rendell’s tax increase was dead.
Rendell would not concede the point yesterday, but he added that he had said for weeks that he was not wedded to the proposal.
He said he would drop the idea if the legislature came to him with a counterproposal to raise revenue in the coming years. He would not say whether he had a preference as to what that might be.
“I gave them my idea – my idea is the best. The ball is in their court now,” Rendell said.
In other words, our good governor is perfectly willing to give up on the idea of an increase in the state’s income tax . . . if the legislature will raise other taxes. What the Governor simply doesn’t get is that we don’t want any taxes raised, we don’t want any “counterproposal to raise revenue.” What we want is for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to spend less!
I’ve previously noted the Quinnepac Poll of 21 July 2009, in which Pennsylvanians surveyed preferred, by a 55% to 35% margin, that the state cut services rather than raise taxes to balance the budget. And while we don’t have the initiative process here that Californians have, I’d note that the voters of the Golden State, a very liberal state which gave 61% of its votes to Barack Obama last year, rejected proposed tax increases by a nearly two-to-one margin. Yet Governor Rendell cannot — or refuses to — understand that people don’t support tax increases, and don’t support ever-increasing spending.
Governor Rendell’s original budget proposal was $29.1 billion. In FY2009, Pennsylvania’s budget was $28.1 billion. That means that the Governor wanted a 3.6% budget increase over last year, at a time when revenues were declining, when a lot of taxpayers were losing their jobs, and many others were seeing their hours reduced. Most Pennsylvanians are having to reduce their spending, because they simply have less money — yet the governor wanted to increase spending by 3.6%!
Ed Rendell just can’t understand; it’s time for the Republicans who control the state Senate to educate him.
¹ – The Philadelphia Inquirer, Wednesday, 5 April 2009, p. B-1