It is clear that the governor's attempt to use state workers as pawns has failed. We are now five weeks past the budget deadline with little movement on either side to enact a balanced budget. Even though three-fifths of House and Senate members will not support a broad-based tax increase, a minority of House Democrats and the governor will not let go of their plan to increase taxes and spending. The feedback I am getting from residents of the 84th Legislative District, even from state workers who are not getting paid, is that they strongly support holding the line on spending and taxes.
The governor and the House Democrat leaders could have passed a budget at the end of June that would have funded state government without a tax increase. If the governor didn't agree with all of the funding numbers, he could have called us into a special session to work on areas of disagreement. That might have ruined vacation plans for the governor and us legislators, but that is part of our jobs. Unfortunately, the governor chose to play a game with the state workers and departments he is supposed to manage and direct on behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania. In the meantime, most state workers are not receiving a paycheck and have been forced to take out loans, seek assistance to help feed their families and make hard choices in their own home budgets.
What the governor fails to realize during this process is that he is not the "King of PA." Rather, he is the CEO of the state and his job as the chief executive is to carry out the directives of the elected representatives of the people of Pennsylvania and the General Assembly. The Pennsylvania Constitution is clear, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania appropriates funds for state operations and the governor and departments execute the programs authorized.
In February, the governor provided us with his budget "request." Since then, it has become very clear that at least three out of five members of both chambers of the General Assembly believe that the governor's spending number is about $2 billion too high, would require a 16 percent tax increase and is unacceptable. Instead of taking the responsible route, the governor has chosen to insist that it has to be his way or no way and in doing so has placed state workers and our most vulnerable citizens at risk.
The vast majority of the people of Pennsylvania have seen through the governor's game. When state workers are in Harrisburg protesting, they are mad at the whole system. However, they are directing most of their anger at the governor for playing them as dupes in a game in which they shouldn't even be involved.
I am very frustrated with the situation. I am very disappointed that the Governor and a minority of powerful Democrat House leaders can hold the State hostage with little or no thought of the damage they are causing.
In the best case scenario now, reasonable Democrats from the Senate and House should convince the governor to accept a responsible, no tax increase budget. If he still disagrees with the funding for education or a few other programs in that budget, he has the right to use his "blue pen" to veto those sections of the budget. This would fund the vast majority of state government and the many critical programs financed with state funds and focus the General Assembly's attention on these specific issues of disagreement. That's the way the system is designed to work and is what a responsible governor would have and should have done more than a month ago.
Everett, R-Muncy, is in his second term as state representative for the 84th District.