• Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Vetoes Republican Budget

    Republicans lawmakers in Pennsylvania are expressing outrage at Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf for vetoing a balanced budget proposal Thursday in favor of one that raises taxes.

    Republicans in the state legislature and Wolf have been unable to agree on a budget plan with retirement benefits being one of the biggest obstacles. Pensions for public employees has sent the state into a downward spiral of debt and State House Speaker Mike Turzai, a Republican, argues the governor’s plan would only make it worse.

    “The governor is a far-left ideologue,” Turzai told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “What the governor wants is unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible.”

    “I do not think this debate is over,” he continued. “Republicans put forward a responsible budget on time like we have the last four year.”

    Turzai described the Republican plan as a way to lower taxes and decrease the state debt while still funding important programs like education.

    “We put forward a balanced budget that didn’t increase taxes but invested in education,” Turzai said. “There was a total of 10 billion in saving in this bill we just passed.”

    The plan, Turzai detailed, simply involves reforming costly programs like pensions so they are workable and far less expensive. Under their budget proposal the hope was that public employees could still get retirement benefits. but through a sensible plan.

    “We have to move to the 21st century,” he continued. “The private sector moved to 401k type plans in the 90s.”

    Turzai argues the governor’s plan is vastly different and unworkable. Under the Wolf plan, Turzai notes, taxes will be increased but no meaningful reforms will happen to rein in spending and bridge the growing debt going forward.

    “He’s planning a massive tax increase,” Turzai proclaimed. “This is a governor that has put a 20 percent increase on the income tax.”

    Turzai also argues that if all the tax increases Gov. Wolf wanted did indeed get enacted, it still wouldn’t be enough to match state spending. Instead, the governor wants to barrow bonds so he can keep spending beyond what can even be taxed.

    “He’s not using that money for unfunded pensions,” Turzai added. “He wants to spend it on future expenses.”

    Turzai further notes the governor is alone in what he wants. While the people of the state disapprove of his plan, Turzai claims, Democrats in the legislature didn’t even defend it when it was up for a vote.

    “We gave the governor’s plan a fair up or down vote,” he noted. “I didn’t see my Democrat colleagues say let’s enact the Wolf increase.”

    “We’re taking that budget to the people of Pennsylvania,” Turzai concluded. “We’re going to contrasts it with the tax increases and borrowing.”

    The governor, however, argues his plan will actually save the state money while not requiring the type of cuts and reforms Republicans are proposing.

    “This legislation was pushed through without negotiation by Republicans along with an unbalanced budget, and this legislation produces no savings to our deficit in the next fiscal year,” Wolf declared in a statement. “We need a comprehensive agreement on the issues facing Pennsylvania including education funding, the need for a commonsense severance tax on natural gas, balancing our budget for the long term, and pension reform.”

    While Turzai argues lawmakers and state residents don’t support the governor’s plan, there is one group of special interests that do. Unions, for the most part, tend to be against pension cuts and have opposed reforms in other states having difficulty funding public retirement plans.

    This is especially true for government unions whose members, as public employees, tend to rely on public pensions for retirement. In Pennsylvania unions are the main contributor to one of the most vocal groups in favor of the Wolf plan.

    America Works USA, an affiliate of the Democratic Governors’ Association, is one of the primary supporters of the governor’s budget proposal. WITF reports the group plans to spend $500,000 over the next two weeks on ads which will call for higher taxes in the state while criticizing Republicans for not supporting the governor.

    The group is heavily endorse by organized labor. Last year it received $14.4 million from government unions according to Open Secrets. Additional the group’s four largest outside donors were all government unions. The same unions gave $3.4 million, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, in PAC contributions to the governor’s campaign last election cycle, and spent another $1.6 million to fund a Super PAC supporting Wolf.

    The governor’s office and America Works USA did not respond to requests for comment from TheDCNF.

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