By: Jason Gottesman
Original article published here.
Shortly after Republicans were praising the historic and substantial nature of passing pension reform, liquor privatization, and a no-tax increase $30.2 billion budget, Gov. Tom Wolf put the brakes on the spending plan, announcing he intends to veto the proposal in its entirety.
“It’s what I feared, this is a budget that absolutely doesn’t work,” said Gov. Wolf in announcing his intention to veto the entire proposal. “The math doesn’t work, it doesn’t address the challenges Pennsylvania faces.”
Gov. Wolf also argued the budget is not balanced and will lead Pennsylvania to face a $3 billion deficit for the FY 2016-2017 budget.
He called the proposal “a mess.”
“There are gimmicks in here, smoke and mirrors, and a lot of kicking the can down the road,” he argued.
Attempting to reopen the lines of communication with Republicans in the General Assembly, Gov. Wolf said he is inviting leader from the four caucuses to a 2:00 p.m. meeting in his office on Wednesday to get down to renegotiating a budget plan. While saying he will be sticking to his broad priorities of a severance tax to fund education, providing significant property relief to homeowners, and closing the deficit without gimmicks, Gov. Wolf added he will enter negotiations with an open mind. Before the veto announcement, Republican leaders gathered to urge the governor to sign their spending plan along with pension reform and liquor privatization bills sent to his desk.
“What [the governor] said to us was: ‘If you have a better plan, bring it forward’,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson).
“Well, governor, we delivered it, and we delivered it well.”
He said the budget product passed by Republicans does more than stand up to criticisms that represent the united will of legislative Republicans surrounding the will they’ve espoused for years. House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) called the proposals sent to the governor “real reform.”
“This isn’t a dictatorship or an autocracy,” he said. “The legislature has put up majority votes in both chambers and put [the bills] on the governor’s desk.”
Democratic leaders in the House were quick to welcome the governor’s veto.
“Republicans wasted a lot of time in the last few days working on a dead-end budget that wasn’t balanced and would have ultimately created a $3 billion deficit,” said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny).
“Now that the governor vetoed the budget, it’s time for all of us to get back to work on a real budget plan that constructively helps the people of Pennsylvania.”
Senate Democratic leaders urged the governor to veto the proposals before his announcement.
“Discussions had been ongoing up until a certain point in time when Republicans elected to go on their own,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny). “We need to go back and build on those discussions, where we left off.”
Gov. Wolf did not give a firm position on liquor privatization and pension reform proposals passed by the legislature, noting the bills were still being printed at the time of his announcement. He did, however, bring up a number of concerns he had with the concepts.
The veto means Pennsylvania will begin the new fiscal year without an enacted budget.