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LETTER: Time for PA GOP to do its job
After House and Senate Republicans reneged on the budget agreement negotiated between Gov. Wolf and their Senate and House Republican leaders in December, my local Republican legislators have put out some indignant statements blaming Gov. Wolf for the budget crisis in Harrisburg. One communication asked, “How Dare He?”
Since I’m not on the Gov. Wolf’s Christmas card list, I can only say why I think his is the best approach to a fair and good budget. Since the stakes are so high, instead of trying to crush the opposition, I suggest considering these items.
Pennsylvania school districts have cut more than 33,000 teachers and education professionals since 2011.
Polls consistently show Pennsylvanians support a Marcellus Shale severance tax. Gov. Wolf campaigned and won on a platform of enacting a fair Marcellus Shale tax and increasing funding for public schools.
Republicans insist on no severance tax.
The latest Republican budget proposals have been mathematically unbalanced, according to independent sources such as the PA Independent Fiscal Office and Standard and Poor’s. A solution to the budget crisis includes dealing with that reality.
State government has been cut in several ways since 2008, and one would expect that any fat remaining would have been removed during the four years of Gov. Corbett’s administration.
The Pennsylvania constitution places responsibility for funding education on the Legislature. The Legislature is starving all but the wealthiest school districts, and the cuts of more than 33,000 education professionals show Pennsylvania has cut school funding past any fat and is well into the bone.
Taxes for corporations have been cut repeatedly in the last 15 years. As corporate taxes have been lowered by over $3 billion a year, Pennsylvania has cut services, cut state workers and raised taxes on working families, and it still faces a structural deficit.
Most school districts raised property taxes over the last 10 years; many have raised them several times.
Many of the tax changes proposed by Gov. Wolf are similar to changes Republicans have proposed in their own previous property tax reform bills. Clearly, most elected Republicans are not serious about property tax reform when they force Gov. Wolf to take it off the table.
Gov. Wolf’s property tax reform proposal did not include the corporate tax cuts embedded in the Republican bills, and Wolf’s did not come up short of revenue for schools as the Republican proposals did (one came up over $2 billion short within just five years), which makes Wolf’s proposal the right one for our children and taxpayers.
Pennsylvania has had an unfair school funding system for years. It would take several more letters to cover how poorly the Legislature has treated school districts, and thus our families, in York County, especially York City.
Pennsylvania has a fiscal crisis, but it also has a moral crisis. The fate of our public schools is at stake. Our children get only one time to grow up, and only one chance to go through school. We are starving many of our school districts, directly harming our children and families. We are endangering our financial future. Worse, we are harming our ability to govern ourselves with this bitter budget fight.
It’s time to do the hard work of facing our problems and show the political courage to fix them. Gov. Wolf began the hard work by agreeing to a budget with legislative leaders in December.
Republican leaders backed out and now risk gutting our public schools and forcing property taxes to increase to salvage whatever we can. They risk the ability of our government to function.
How dare we let that happen?