State Budget Addiction
By Rep. Sam Rohrer
It's no secret that the governor is at odds with lawmakers, specifically Republican lawmakers, in this ongoing budget stalemate. Thus far the debate has been centered around how to close the deficit, whether through spending reductions or tax increases. Republicans believe that fiscally responsible reductions are essential in order to stop runaway government spending and force the state to make the same difficult decisions its citizens face every day. The governor insists not only on increases in spending, but on new revenues in the form of a Personal Income Tax (PIT) increase.
I believe it is imperative to give an honest questioning of why Gov. Ed Rendell is so fixated on a tax increase. Despite his posturing that he is open to other options on the table, his actions clearly demonstrate that he is determined to raise taxes on hard-working Pennsylvanians.
While I am no doctor, I fear Gov. Ed Rendell is addicted, in the words of the former Sen. Vincent Fumo, to OPM — Other People's Money. He will do or say anything to get more OPM.
Otherwise, why is the governor engaging in behavior that is harming those he claims to care about? The governor has long claimed to be an advocate for children and education; yet in early August, the General Assembly sent the governor a budget bill that would have provided significant increases in funding for local schools and students. Instead of supporting students, on Aug. 5, the governor single-handedly eliminated all funding in the state budget for basic education and special needs schooling.
In addition, the governor has also claimed to be the protector of state workers. Yet, despite his supposed concern for this group, the governor has failed for the past seven years to sign a budget into law by the July 1 deadline. In the past, this has led to temporary furloughs for some state workers. This year, it resulted in payless paydays, where state government was unable to pay state employees for the hours they worked.
And why is the governor showing his blatant disregard for the opinions of those who elected him? After proposing a 16 percent increase in the state's PIT and dragging the budget process long past the deadline, the governor's approval ratings have plummeted. When asked about this, the governor said he did not care if his approval rating dropped below 10 percent. In the wake of members from his own party saying a tax increase is off the table, he himself admitted that, "Right now I'm the only one talking about raising revenue."
In all these things, the governor has been willing to "railroad" whoever stands between him and his desire to spend more OPM. Other state lawmakers, state workers, students, the people who depend on state government services — the governor has run roughshod over all of them in his pursuit of more OPM.
Many Pennsylvania families are facing the real threat of losing their home through foreclosure because of job loss or because they can't pay their property taxes. Others shudder in fear at the prospect of losing their jobs and their livelihoods. For government to take more money away from these people through a tax increase would be cold-hearted villainy. Yet, the governor rationalized this all away, arguing that families can afford to send more of their hard-earned money to the state coffers.
These signs all seem to indicate that Rendell and House Democrat leaders are undoubtedly addicted to OPM. When other options are on the table-when tax increases are being opposed by most-when state workers are suffering as political hostages-when approval ratings are dropping daily-why must the governor insist on taking more of your money?
Is it simply because he can't envision the people of Pennsylvania surviving without government taking care of them? Is it because he doesn't see how he will survive without his taxpayer-funded cardboard checks to hand out? Or, maybe he's unconcerned about the lasting effect on the state far past when he is out of office? Whatever the reason may be, one thing remains clear: the governor cannot be allowed to ruin Pennsylvania through his fixation on raising taxes.
State Rep. Sam Rohrer, R-Berks, is the Republican chairman of the House Finance Committee.