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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Where do state budget talks stand?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jan 6, 2016 9:00 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, January 6, 2016:

Pennsylvania is more than six months into the fiscal year and there still isn't a final budget.

Last week, an angry Gov. Tom Wolf used his line-item veto power to blue line some $7 billion from a Republican passed $30.3 billion budget.  The move got money flowing to cash-starved schools and social service organizations that had been borrowing, scrimping, cutting services and laying off workers.

But it didn't provide the state with a final spending plan.

As a result, negotiators are back at it this week trying to resolve issues the governor and Republican legislative leaders disagree on like taxes, spending and pension reform.

Wolf and Republican leaders said they had a framework in place before Thanksgiving.  The Senate approved a budget bill the governor called reasonable.  But House leaders balked saying they saw no need to raise taxes and didn't know where additional revenue was coming from.

So, less than a month before Gov. Wolf is scheduled to propose next year's budget, Wednesday's Smart Talk focuses on the latest in the current deadlock.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Policy and Planning John Hanger and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman appear on the program.

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Pennsylvania Secretary of Policy & Planning John Hanger and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-06 09:27

    Jeff emails:

    In his line item veto announcement last week, the Governor did not just express his disagreement with Republican leaders and the House Republicans, but flat out ridiculed and insulted them. In my experience, insulting people with whom you have to do business is extremely counterproductive both short and long term. If you were involved in advising Gov. Wolf on the content of his announcement, why did you advise him to do that?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-06 09:28

    Thomas emails:

    I take my car to a mechanic, because he knows how to repair it better than I. I have a barber cut my hair, because he can do it better than I. I voted for a politician to do a job, and they simply cannot. You people are obscenely pitiful.

  • Bob Nunn img 2016-01-06 09:32

    Corbett have increases in his budgets and used one time funds to cover thoses increases. Why did the GOP allow him to do this, and now they want Wolf to decrease the budget?

    During that time the GOP had control of all three branches of government, why didn't they pass pension reform and liquor privatization then?

  • Bob Nunn img 2016-01-06 09:34

    Corbett have increases in his budgets and used one time funds to cover thoses increases. Why did the GOP allow him to do this, and now they want Wolf to decrease the budget?

    During that time the GOP had control of all three branches of government, why didn't they pass pension reform and liquor privatization then?

  • Bob Nunn img 2016-01-06 09:38

    If Governor Wolf made no increase in the budge, would we have the money to cover the budget? Or would there have to be a new source of revenue (aka, tax increase) to cover the previous budge increases?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-06 09:48

    Joel emails:

    There is one sure way to get the budget done on time. If the legislature (and the governor) receives no pay for every day past the budget deadline with no way of recovering that money when a budget is finally passed, we would have a budget done on time. Of course, there’s no way that the legislature would ever pass such a bill. Think how much money the state would have saved at this point. In this particular case, I side with Governor Wolf. Republicans want the services from the government they want; they don’t want the services they don’t want. At no point are they willing, to do what needs to be done to pay the bills.

  • Bob Nunn img 2016-01-06 09:57

    Did Corman just say tantrum stage? If so hadn't he previously made a comment about name calling being childish?

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-06 10:47

    From Jeffrey Sheridan, Gov. Wolf's Press Secretary...
    We agreed to that plan only as part of the agreed-to budget that also began to fix the deficit and was a balanced budget.

    The GOP did not send us that budget. Instead, they sent us an unbalanced budget that grew the deficit. We cannot go to the market to get a bond without fixing our deficit. Therefore, school districts will be socked with that $305 million bill resulting in a $95 million cut to education.

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-06 10:49

    Brad adds...
    I work with school boards and have been asking members if the state does not raise taxes will your district raise property taxes at the local level and they all say yes, and by a large amount. Doing it statewide lessens the pain but either way taxes are going up.

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-07 12:56

    Marvin comments...
    The comments, by Mr. Hangor, vis-a-vis the House Republicans were, in my opinion, far off base. He accused the Republicans of being "Right wing extremists". He accused them of "running out of town"
    without having resolved the budget issue. He accused them of "not doing their jobs". He made comments about the PA legislative districts
    being gerrymandered, resulting in legislative stalemates. etc. etc.

    I would like to point out, that if he had chosen a different set of facts, he could make similar rhetorical accusations against Tom Wolf. Let's see, hmmm.
    The PA House of Representatives and the PA Senate had indeed passed a budget in June 2015. My understanding is that this proposed budget was on the Governor's desk on June 30th, 2015, waiting the Governor's signature. The Governor refused to sign that budget.

    In September, the House Republicans were proposing a temporary, stop-gap budget to keep the PA government funded. The Governor worked with Democratics in the legislature to put a stop to this compromising piece of legislation.

    In December, again, the legislature passed a budget and put it on the Governor's desk for signature. Again, the Governor refused to sign the budget.

    When I look at these facts, I don't see a House that refuses to do its job.
    I see a governor who is not willing to compromise. We elected Tom Wolf to be Governor. That job, by necessity, requires someone who can compromise.
    The job requires a person who can work with 253 legislators whose jobs are just as important as his job. I don't see the Governor being the person who is willing to compromise. He seems to be a person with a "my way or the highway"

    In December, between Christmas and the end of 2015, I saw the Governor on television, berating and belittling the legislators with whom he needs to work.
    That kind of language does not promote harmony, compromise, and a positive working relationship.

    When we elected a businessman to be governor, I thought we would get a governor who understand how to balance a budget, who understood that there are limits to spending, who understood that the customer has a limited budget of his own, who would be willing to set priorities on spending and realize that the government cannot do everything, who would have a perspective of limited government. I guess not!

    We should remind Mr. Hangor that we elected a governor, state senators, and state assemblymen. They all have a role in representing us in our state government. When our state assemblymen have opinions and ideas that differ from the Governor's views, our representatives are doing their jobs. Contrary to Mr. Bangor's world view, our representatives are not supposed to be rubber stamps for the Governor.

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-07 13:01

    Jay says...
    Given that a high percentage of private sector workers no longer have (and lost a decade or more ago) defined benefit pensions, why should taxpayers fund defined benefit pensions for PA state workers?

    We need state pension reform BEFORE raising taxes on PA tax payers.