Check out my latest opinion piece in the Harrisburg Patriot-News
Gov. Wolf has Compromised on the #PaBudget - It's Time for the GOP to do the Same: Vincent J. Hughes
Elected officials must be driven by principles and core values. But it's also vital to pay attention to the messages being sent by public. Pennsylvania voters delivered a strong message to the Republican Party on Election Day, sweeping Democrats into control of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
This should send a clear message to Republicans in Harrisburg: It's time to compromise with Democrats and pass a state budget that fully addresses the needs of the Commonwealth.
When Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, defeated former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett more than a year ago, it marked the first time that a challenger unseated a sitting Pennsylvania governor in modern Pennsylvania history.
This happened primarily because the public was fed up with policies pushed by the Republicans in Harrisburg, especially deep cuts to school funding and rising local property taxes.
However, Republicans have refused to listen to the voters and acknowledge their call for change.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the current budget impasse.
Instead of working with Wolf to pass a budget that fully funds education and other critical priorities, Republicans have been unwilling to compromise.
Instead, they have dug in their heels. This is completely out of step with the mood of the public.
There is no issue where this is clearer than on taxing natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
Pennsylvania is the only major producer of natural gas that doesn't levy a tax on the drillers.
Public opinion polls show that voters overwhelmingly support making the gas companies pay their fair share. But Republicans have refused to budge, clinging to a rigid anti-tax ideology that refuses to acknowledge Pennsylvania's budget realities.
The Republicans' refusal to compromise is even more vexing when you consider how much Democrats have offered at the bargaining table.
Recognizing that we have divided government, Wolf has tried to find common ground with conservatives.
For example, Wolf has agreed to dramatically cut his overall spending proposal. This is a significant concession that acknowledges the Republican goal of shrinking the size of government.
However, Republicans continue to push for steeper cuts that would truly harm education, job creation, and human services.
On the issue of pensions, Wolf originally said that he didn't want any major changes in the design of pension plans for state employees.
But the Republicans said that moving all employees into a 401(k) system was a top priority for them. So Wolf offered a plan design for new state employees that includes 401(k) style component and produces over $20 billion in future savings for the Commonwealth.
However, the Republicans rejected the Governor's proposal.
Republicans have also repeatedly said that privatizing the state liquor system is a major priority.
Wolf originally said he wanted to modernize the liquor system to include expanding access for consumers, but opposed privatization.
Then, he tried to meet Republicans halfway by proposing the privatization of the management of the state liquor system. But Republicans have said that it's either their way or the highway, with no room for compromise.
Finally, Wolf has repeatedly said that we need new revenue to close the current $1.3 billion budget hole.
He scaled back his original proposal by a significant amount. But, once again, Republicans want to ignore our fiscal realities and have refused to compromise. They simply will not meet Wolf halfway.
This lack of willingness to compromise is foolish.
Pennsylvania voters showed on Election Day that they have rejected the GOP brand and the policies associated with it. It's time for Republicans to come to the table and work with Governor Wolf to pass a responsible budget for the people of Pennsylvania.
Learn more about the issues and provide your feedback on my website at senatorhughes.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@SenatorHughes).
Offices of State
Senator Vincent Hughes