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Senator Bob Mensch

Senator Mensch Reacts to Governor Wolf’s Budget Address

Senator Bob Mensch

I have grave concern over Governor Wolf’s remarks and budget proposal announced Tuesday.  Governor Wolf proposed a $33.28 billion dollar budget for FY 2016-17 which includes a $3.6 billion in new or increased taxes.  The tax hikes include a 10.7% increase in the state Personal Income Tax, from a rate of 3.07% to 3.4%, an expansion of the state Sales Tax to include cable bills and other items, and a new tax on fire, property and casualty insurance.

The Governor’s budget proposal includes a 3.4% increase in Basic Education funding.  This includes restoring the $3.3 billion in aid that he originally slashed from the 2015-2016 budget. However, his proposal abandons efforts to reform the number-one cause of school cutbacks and school property tax increases: the public pension system.

No Pension Reform
The Governor spent some of his time expressing his concern over the increase of property taxes and how it will impact Pennsylvanians. Yet he vetoed three pension reform bills, which would have resulted in direct property tax relief, and did not propose a single solution on how to address the issue.  Instead, he demanded a 7.8 increase in state spending along with a $3.6 billion tax increase.  He clearly isn’t concerned about taxpayers.

My colleagues and I have previously underlined that schools face serious challenges, but these problems stem not from a lack of resources provided by lawmakers, but rather from a pension system that is inarguably broken. Just as troubling is his recent unilateral decision to cut off funding for the Public Employee Retirement Commission – Pennsylvania’s independent state and local pension review agency. The Auditor General's office uses reports by PERC to audit the pensions and ensure communities are raising enough money to pay retirees what they promised. 

Lack of Leadership, More Threats
The Governor’s failure to complete a 2015-16 budget, inability to rally support for any of his own proposals (even from members of his own party), and unwillingness to present a viable starting point for a 2016-17 spending plan demonstrates an incredible lack of leadership. 

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again. Pennsylvania does not need, nor can its citizens support, the enormous tax increases on Pennsylvania families and employers that Governor Wolf wants.

Governor Wolf again threatened draconian cuts if the General Assembly does not approve his massive tax increases. If he continues to insist that there are only two ways to address the financial problems facing our Commonwealth, it raises serious questions about his understanding of the budget process and his willingness to consider any ideas other than his own.  A leader who can envision only extreme choices hasn’t earned a following. 

A Common Sense Approach Needed
I will continue to advocate for common sense approach of charting a clear and predictable course that focuses on fiscal restraint, core priorities, and the sustainability of those financial and budgetary decisions in the future is the best course of action.

We will continue to fulfill the needs of schools and social service providers, without the massive tax hikes the Governor demands.

Senator Mensch and the Senate Appropriations Committee have scheduled three weeks of public hearings on the proposed budget, beginning February 22.

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