Yesterday the General Assembly in Pennsylvania sent a very clear message to the Governor that his tax and spend wealth redistribution policies are not going to fly in Pennsylvania. After more than 3 months of a budget impasse that rests firmly on the Governor’s shoulders; after 3 months of a campaign where the Governor continually tried to sell his budget to the people of the Commonwealth; after attempting to lure support for his budget by suggesting money be targeted to local districts through their representatives; the General Assembly still stood firm rejecting his budget proposal by a vote of 127 to 73.
Attempts were made by the Democrats to make a show of solidarity in standing with the Governor on his budget but they couldn’t even find that support in their own rank and file with 9 Democrats voting against his proposal.
The Governor and the Democrat Whip claimed they had the support to pass the budget. They made that message clear to the press, but the truth was that they didn’t. In fact, before the vote modifications were made to try and bring more votes on board and it all failed.
Following the vote, the Governor once again took his campaign to the press and demonstrated an almost delusional approach to leadership. You can’t just say things and make it so because facts are stubborn things.
Central to this budget debate has been the theme of Property Tax reform. Frankly, I don’t ever recall a budget debate where Property Tax reform has taken such a major role in the debate. The push for Property Tax Elimination has forced politicians to finally recognize the problems related to property tax…enough that it has been shaping the talks of this debate making it central to the debate. That comes as the results of the grassroot support for this initiative which has relentlessly pursued that objective. Some legislators, including Mahoney and Saccone, openly discussed the fact that Elimination of the School Property Tax would be the only way they would support any increase in taxes. That’s a long way from three years ado when such an effort was seen in the house and followed by efforts to silence the supporters to kill the proposal.
Those attempts to kill the Elimination bill have failed and the grassroots push to see this through has changed the face of the budget discussions this time around. While the Governor may claim his own influence, he has failed, as have many in the legislative rank and file, to understand the influence of a focused and mobilized grassroots effort. The failure of seeing this grassroots influence also exist in the traditional lobbying efforts who seem to fail to realize the discontent of the people in the abuse they are levying on the people through property.
The Governor, attempting to exert his influence through media manipulation of meme’s plastered all over facebook and other social media outlets would list how his budget would help families, even listing the number of families that would see property tax elimination or relief. Those numbers, unverified and in the 100’s of thousands seem like large numbers but in reality 2 and 3 hundred thousand pales in comparison to a total population of 12.7 million people. Still, much like the claims made in the promised Casino relief, the numbers simply didn’t back up Governor Wolf’s claims. We were just simply supposed to believe him because he said so. Of course when you have a governor who makes the claim that the GOP was underestimating his influence over the people, it demonstrates an arrogance that boarders on the delusional where this Governor is seeing declining favorability.
The Governor’s proposal claimed to help the working family, restore job growth and secure education funding…all noble efforts but once again, his policy would have resulted in the exact opposite.
The majority of the working families would not see any property tax relief but would pay a higher PIT tax to provide it for the few who would. The additional severance tax, after already applying an impact fee would have crushed the Shale Industry. The Shale industry is already taxed and while it may be among the lowest in the nation, under Wolf’s proposal it would have become the highest in levied taxes on the Shale industry according to a report from Forbes earlier this year. In that report Forbes states “This, in the end, is more likely to shift the tax burden on Pennsylvania landowners, as they have the least flexibility to remarket their land to another suitor. In other words, they are the providers of the most inelastic input to production, and, as such, the tax will be effectively negotiated into lower lease payments.”
So while the Governor is proposing these new taxes claiming to help property owners, his tax would actually harm those most directly affected by the Shale Industry. Once the actual number crunching began it was found that his total expected revenue from the severance tax would only generate about 1/.3 of the revenue he claimed. That, however, never stopped him from trying to continue to sell this to the people of the Commonwealth using his self-proclaimed “influence.”
Nothing in the Governor’s proposal would have helped the families he claimed he would be helping and his mentality of simply saying it was so worked for some but not for the majority. The party loyal may continue to defend him but that’s to their own peril since others in the party have seen this sham for what it really is.
The rise of the Tea Party demonstrated a discontent within the GOP at their own elected officials in betraying the core principles and values of the party. That discontent is shaping the political landscape even though many of the GOP elitists continue to refuse to recognize that influence while attempting to ignore, belittle or demonize those efforts by the grassroots within the Tea Party. The impact on Senate Leader Dominic Pileggi in Pennsylvania or John Boehner at the national level demonstrates that, while we still have a long way to go, a difference is being realized.
If that same discontent in raised among the rank and file of democrats through the delusional push of Governors like Governor Wolf in failing to recognize how they are hurting the people they claim to want to help, we may actually start to see real reform and a better understanding that this two party system is more obsessed with advancing agendas detrimental to the people than their campaign rhetoric would seem to imply.
If nothing else, the fight for school property tax elimination demonstrates that this is not a party line issue. There are supporters on both sides of the aisle and while both Tea Party despising Republicans along with Democrats have tried to pigeon-hole this bill as a Tea Party bill….it is in fact a people bill. It has the combined support of Republicans and Democrats in the voting rank and file as well as support from legislators on both sides of the aisle.
The attempts at garnering solidarity behind the governor’s proposal, which would have seriously damaged the School Property Tax Elimination fight. has called in to question the actual support by some on the Democrat side of the aisle.
Unfortunately the end result of this is that non-profits, social services and funding for education continue to suffer as a result of this budget impasse. The Republicans had offered a budget proposal that would have kept these funding doors open while passing a budget that would not have increased taxes at the state level. It is the Governor and the 73 Democrats who took yet one more stand of solidarity that keep that door closed. No matter how he tries to spin it, the Governor and the leadership and lobbyists behind him bear that responsibility. They may have done so at their own political peril!
To the Republicans and the 9 Democrats who took a stand to defend the people of this Commonwealth I extend a heartfelt thank you. To those who took the extra step in defending School property Tax Elimination, I wholeheartedly applaud you!