Friday, February 12, 2016

Gov. Wolf: PA Is Facing A Fiscal Crisis That Must Be Solved; Kane Khronicles Kontinue

This quote from Gov. Wolf sums up his budget address on Tuesday: “...if you (members of the General Assembly) won’t face up to the reality of the situation we’re in. . . if you ignore that time bomb ticking. . . if you won’t take seriously your responsibility to the people of Pennsylvania – then find another job.”
He added in an interview later, “The message is the message.  It won’t change by booing me.”
The responses were quick in coming.
House Majority Leader David Reed (R-Indiana) compared Wolf to his daughter-- "She is 4 years old. I have confidence she'll grow out of it.  I'm hopeful she's going to mature and we're going to be able to work together. I have the same hope for this governor."
He added, “I was hoping [the governor] was going to come back from fantasyland, instead he left for Neverland.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said pictures of him at the budget address must have caught “my jaw in my lap” as he listened to the speech.  He called the speech “absurd” and “outrageous.”
"I don't know where he thinks we go from here," Sen. Corman said. "I don't know how he thinks that gets him votes in either (Republican) caucus. My guess is today we are further away than we were in June of last year."
Democrats had a different view.
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) said the Governor told the truth despite the political "heartburn" it might cause.
Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Minority Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said, "The people of Pennsylvania need to know the real deal."
In another response to the Governor, House Republicans Wednesday passed legislation to provide supplemental funding for state prisons, child advocacy centers and hospital burn centers to make up funding Gov. Wolf vetoed in December.  And they have more supplementals in the wings.
Gov. Wolf thinks the supplementals are not necessary because he can spend money under his authority to fund “critical and necessary” state functions.
House Democrats said Republicans didn’t pass the taxes needed to fund the increased spending.
Interestingly, Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) had amendments drafted to add the “agreed-to” budget framework that Gov. Wolf  thinks is still alive to the supplemental funding bills, but withdrew them when the bills came up for consideration.  He also did not authorize another member to offer the amendment in his place.
Well, you can probably figure out where the Governor’s budget is going from here.
Spending During The Impasse
Something that got little attention the day before the Governor’s budget address was a hearing by the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees on how decisions were made on paying bills during the time the state had no budget and even after if line-items Gov. Wolf vetoed run short.
It explored how State Treasurer Timothy Reese, who only makes payments in response to Governor’s Office requests, used the “critical and necessary to the protection of health, safety and welfare and in the public interest” standard in evaluating which payment requests to honor.
The bottom line here is there is no law guiding the Treasurer’s actions and he thinks there should be.  In the meantime, they make the best judgments they can and turned down 143 of  “thousands” of requests for payment made by the Governor.
Needless to say this did not sit well with the Republican members of the Senate who charged the Wolf Administration was picking “winners and losers.”
Legislation will be forthcoming no doubt.
$100 Million Surplus
Also little noticed was a report by the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission an hour before the Governor’s budget address that found the Senate and House had a “reserve” of $100,374,253, as of June 30, 2015.
They have less now since they had to scrounge for money before the Governor signed the budget in December, but still, that’s a lot of money.
No offers were made to turn some of it over to be used to help fund the other parts of state government.
Kane Khronicles
Indicted Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Wednesday was a good day.
By a bipartisan vote of 170 to 12, the House Wednesday approved House Resolution 659 (Everett-R-Lycoming) authorizing the House Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation of Kane to determine her fitness for office after just a few minutes of discussion.
The same day, after 3 hours of debate, the Senate fell 4 votes short of the required two-thirds in passing Senate Resolution 284 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) that would have removed Kane from office because her law license has been temporarily suspended.
“This circus continues,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson).
What’s Next
The Senate and House have adjourn full voting session and will not return to Harrisburg (unless sooner recalled) until March 14.
In the meantime, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have agency-by -agency hearings on Gov. Wolf’s FY 2016-17 budget requests from February 22 to March 11.
Gov. Wolf will no doubt continue to travel the state trying to drum up support for his approach to the budget on his “Schools That Teach, Jobs That Pay and Government That Works” tour.
But many of the editorials that followed his budget address were like the one in his hometown newspaper in York: “Gov. Wolf’s Budget Rhetoric Is Not Working.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer did weigh in with a “Gov. Wolf Takes A Bold Stand In His Budget Address” comment.
It brings to mind a saying made famous by Harry Copland, an early aviation pioneer: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.”
In other words, if you’re too bold, your time may be short.
Judging from the last Franklin & Marshall Poll where Gov. Wolf garnered a 33 percent approval rating (just slightly more popular than Gov. Corbett at 31 percent), the voting public has doubts about his approach to issues.
Of course the same poll found the General Assembly’s popularity is down to 15 percent.  At the same time, individual legislators are usually popular with their own voters.
Perhaps it’s only when everyone gets together in Harrisburg that things go off the rails.
Related Stories:
Analysis: PA Isn’t Cleaning Up Our Rivers, Abandoned Mines Quickly Enough

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