Republicans as the Party of Fiscal Responsibility and Family Values

Well, maybe in 49 of the states but certainly not in Pennsylvania.

Although the state has a Democratic governor, both chambers of its legislature have large Republican majorities, including a veto-proof majority in the senate.

Which means that in Pennsylvania, Republicans pretty much call the shots.

So Republicans passed a budget in late June. The state’s constitutional budget deadline is June 30.

So they did their job, right?

Well, not quite.

It turns out that they passed a spending plan but neglected to pass legislation to raise enough money to pay for the $32 billion worth of spending they approved.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

And then they dallied for four months over that spending plan.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

During which the state had to borrow money to pay its bills.

And to pay for things like health care for kids.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

Despite this, they took a six-week vacation during which the state still didn’t have a revenue plan and still wasn’t raising enough money to pay for the $32 billion in spending they approved.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

And then last week they finally – finally! – passed a revenue plan.

That didn’t cut any more state spending.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

And that didn’t call for any new or increased taxes.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

And that called for borrowing $1.5 billion to cover ordinary operating expenses.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

Looking like an elephant but acting more like jackasses

And called for generating an estimated $200 million in new tax revenue by expanding legal gambling in the state.

Because Republicans are the party of family values and nothing says “family values” quite like making it in the state’s financial interest for working-class people to fritter away their paychecks at slot machines and video poker terminals.

Yes, Pennsylvania’s Republicans really embody everything that has made the Republican party great again.

At the expense of the people they were elected to serve.

Government at its Most Irresponsible

More than a week ago the Pennsylvania state legislature passed a fiscal year 2018 budget and sent it to the state’s governor for his signature.  Pennsylvania’s fiscal year began on July 1.

The budget includes only a spending plan for the 2018 fiscal year.  What makes that unusual is that normally, government budgets detail both how money will be spent and how that money will be raised, but this budget excludes the latter.

That’s especially noteworthy in Pennsylvania because the state fiscal year that just ended on June 30 did so with a revenue shortfall of about $1 billion.  In other words, by the end of the state’s 2017 fiscal year, the Pennsylvania spent about a $1 billion more than it received in revenue.

Which is some serious shortfall.

Another reason the lack of a revenue plan is important:  because the 2018 budget the legislature just passed, based on taxation levels from the year that just ended, would leave the state just a little short of revenue to pay for its new fiscal year of spending.

How much short?

Somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion.

State legislators, though, thought it was more important to beat it out of town for the fourth of July weekend than it was to finish the job, so they said, in effect, “Don’t worry.  We’ll come back to the capital next week and finish the job by passing a bill with all of the revenue the state will need for the new fiscal year.”

Did that happen?

Would The Curmudgeon be writing about this if it had?

Of course it didn’t.  As a result, the situation today is that the legislature passed an unbalanced budget, in violation of the state’s constitution, and sent it to the governor to sign – as of this writing he hasn’t signed it yet – and hasn’t lived up to its promise to finish the job of deciding how to raise enough money to pay for the spending it authorized.

Leaving Pennsylvania with a revenue shortfall of somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion.

And if that’s not incredibly irresponsible then The Curmudgeon doesn’t know what is.

The Governor Has it All Wrong

The constitutional deadline for adopting a state budget in Pennsylvania came and went a month ago and there’s no end in sight to the stalemate between the state’s Democratic governor and the leaders who run an overwhelmingly Republican state legislature.

At issue, as always, is spending: the Democrat says he was elected to spend more money in certain areas and to raise certain taxes if necessary to do it and the Republicans say they were elected to prevent taxes from being raised no matter what the reason.

But the governor’s on shaky ground when he insists he needs to raise taxes so the state can more adequately fund public school education.

Why? Because there’s very little interest in quality public education in Pennsylvania – and there hasn’t been for as long as The (fifty-seven-year-old) Curmudgeon can recall.

Teachers will tell you that if you show them a student with an interested and involved parent, they’ll show you a student they can teach. You certainly won’t find very many such parents in Philadelphia, where parents’ idea of “doing something” about their kids’ inadequate education is to protest. They don’t necessarily know what they’re protesting, but they protest. But check their kids’ homework? Attend parent-teacher night? No way.

And it’s pretty much that way across Pennsylvania. After all, they don’t call the vast expanse of real estate between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh “Pennsyl-tucky” for nothing.
Four years ago, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, while running for president, called President Obama a snob for suggesting that public schools prepare all children to be able to attend college. Santorum – himself a college and law school graduate (for all the good it did him) – was merely echoing the views of his former constituents. They don’t need no stinking college for their kids. They didn’t go to college themselves and they’re doing just fine without it themselves. Never mind that the world has changed and the world of work has changed and the demands made of the workforce have changed: if it was good enough for them it’s good enough for their kids. While The Curmudgeon understands that not everyone needs to go to college and there are plenty of great ways to earn a living without it, it’s still probably a good idea for public schools to provide that preparation so that kids who haven’t made definitive career plans before they’re fifteen years old still have that option, and are prepared to pursue it, if they eventually decided they do want to attend college.

So while Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who has a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth, a master’s from the University of London, and a PhD from MIT, is a man who clearly values education, he’s preaching the virtues of education and advocating better funding for public education in a state that doesn’t share those values at all.