The governor had been holding state workers hostage in an effort to force lawmakers into accepting his proposal for a 16 percent income tax increase. When House Democratic leaders publicly admitted there are not enough votes to pass the governor's tax increase, he realized his effort had failed and he decided to use his veto pen to exchange those hostages for another, larger group of hostages, which includes college students, public schools, day care services, families of children with special needs, and Pennsylvania's hospitals to name a few.
The facts do not lie. Governor Rendell is the only person who has eliminated funding for education, day care, social services, and many other state programs. Although he claims he is fighting for Pennsylvania's schools, he eliminated funding for every school district in Pennsylvania while leaving intact $40 million to educate inmates in Pennsylvania's prisons. He even vetoed funding for programs in cases where the bill provided the same amount he originally requested. If he were truly serious about funding these programs, he would have left the funding intact so the programs could continue to function while a final budget is negotiated.
House Republicans have supported several alternatives that would have funded essential services without raising taxes. The governor chose to reject all of them and instead has decided to engage in the shameful tactic of using Pennsylvania's school children, college students, hospitals, and social services as pawns in his effort to gain support for the income tax increase that he still supports.
Since the budget process began, House Republicans have been guided by the same simple set of principles that will continue to guide us as we work toward a commonsense, realistic budget agreement:
-- The state budget must reflect our financial situation and the current economic crisis;
-- It must maintain funding for essential services like public education, higher education and public safety;
-- It must identify a sustainable source of revenue to pay for the spending it proposes; and
-- It must do it without increasing taxes on Pennsylvania families.
While I sincerely regret the fact that Pennsylvania is currently entrenched in this historic budget impasse, I, along with my House Republican colleagues, remain committed to passing a budget that is aligned with the consistent principles that I have outlined above. Pennsylvania is facing a $3.25 billion budget deficit. If we are going to avoid a major tax increase, state government must learn to live within its means. That means we cannot continue spending more than we have and asking taxpayers to make up the difference.
It is time for us to make the tough decisions about our spending. As I have said before, that does not mean we will ask anyone to do without, but it does mean we will ask everyone to do with less. Any other course of action will result in a massive tax increase that Pennsylvania families and businesses simply cannot afford.
State Rep. Stan Saylor is a Republican representing the 94th District in York County. He writes a monthly column for the York Dispatch Opinion page.