Pennsylvania is now the only state in the country without a budget. For more than two months, Republican House leader Mike Turzai has refused to agree on common sense solutions to keep our state government funded and running. But he’ll soon have to face the music: the House is officially due back in session on Sep. 11.
Back in July, Gov. Wolf, House Democrats, and the state Senate – Republicans and Democrats – all came to the table like grown-ups. They reached a compromise on revenue sources for the last $2 billion needed to fund the $32 billion 2017-18 budget that they had agreed to in June.
Since then Turzai has, week after week, refused to allow the House to vote on it. Why? Well, the budget revenue compromise includes a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers. This is an industry Turzai has apparently sworn a blood oath to protect from taxes at all costs – including, perhaps, to his own career.
What alternative to filling the budget gap has he come up with in all this time? What’s Turzai’s $2 billion solution? Raiding the state’s special accounts. These are funds that our commonwealth has set aside aside for specific purposes, like infrastructure, public transit, hazardous site clean-up, and certain small business loans.
Aside from whether there is enough money in these accounts to actually balance the budget (and whether taking it is constitutional or legal) this is terrible governing. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, where Peter is essential to the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians, and Paul is a gas driller who already got way more than his fair share in loot.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION
Gov. Wolf says the budget must be finalized by Sep. 15. If not, he will then face the impossible choice of freezing government spending, slashing it by 12%, or taking on more state debt. All would come with high costs for working Pennsylvanians, their families, and their communities.
We can’t afford the game Turzai is playing. We need a Pennsylvania budget that puts people first, and we need it NOW.
1. Call: If you don’t already know, figure out who your Pa. House representative is.
Is your Rep…
- Mike Turzai? Contact his office. Tell his staff you’re disgusted by his willingness to hold Pennsylvanians hostage just to please his wealthy donors. Tell them it’s time he comes to the adult table and agrees to the compromise that the rest of the legislature and the governor have agreed to. He lost. Negotiating time is over.
- a different House Republican? Contact their office. Tell the staff you’re disgusted by Turzai’s willingness to hold Pennsylvanians hostage just to please his wealthy donors. Tell them it’s time they tell Turzai to come to the adult table and agree to the compromise that the rest of the legislature and the governor have agreed to. Turzai lost. Negotiating time is over.
- a House Democrat? Contact their office. Tell the staff you appreciate what your representative has done thus far to take his job seriously and to responsibly negotiate a budget deal. Tell them you hope he’ll work to protect funding for government human services if House Republicans continue to block the compromise on this year’s budget revenue.
2. Email: Use this easy online action tool from Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center to send a message to your PA House legislator.