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In this Email Update:
New Year – Renewed effort on Property Tax Independence Act
I’m sure you or someone you know created a list of New Year’s Resolutions – eating healthy, traveling, exercising, spending more time with family and friends, etc. One resolution I have for 2016 is for the Senate to make another attempt at passing the number one issue in Berks and Schuylkill Counties – elimination of the school property tax.
I am certainly not giving up on this very important issue that has long plagued homeowners. While I was very disappointed by the 24-24 Senate vote on this issue a few weeks ago, it confirmed a simple fact: We need one more vote to approve this bill for the first time since the Senate of Pennsylvania was created by the Constitution of 1790.
I look forward to fighting for this key issue in 2016 and will fight for the Senate to reconsider the issue ASAP!
Senate passes another budget bill, governor vetoes portionsOn December 23, the Senate approved a budget with bipartisan support that would spend $30.26 billion for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year. The budget would have provided school districts with an additional $100 million without any tax increases. On December 29, the governor line-item vetoed several portions of the bill, but allowed school districts to receive six months of funding.
A local newspaper recently covered a school board meeting where it was decided that the board would send me a letter to express their disappointment with the progress of the budget.
In my response to the school directors, I provided a timeline of the prior two budgets passed by the House and Senate, but rejected by the governor:
When the governor decided to use a line-item veto for the budget approved by the House and Senate, he stated, “I don’t want to hold the children of Pennsylvania hostage for the inability of folks here in Harrisburg to get the job done.”
The only individual holding the children of Pennsylvania hostage is the veto-happy governor.
Governor tries blackmail as negotiating tool
Leading up to the budget vote on December 23, there was an effort to approve an emergency funding package to provide relief to schools and social service agencies impacted by the budget impasse. This would allow negotiations to continue. Instead, the governor and his team fought legislators on this effort, with one source with the governor’s administration blackmailing the legislature:
“If they (the legislature) think they are going to give us a stopgap budget and they were upset by what (former Governor) Tom Corbett did to them last year by blue-lining the legislature’s budget then the legislative Republicans should wait and see what we will do because we will wreak havoc on anything that touches them.”
Basically do it my way or I’ll cut your budget. This cartoon illustrates this point.
If the governor thinks he’s going to blackmail people like me into voting for higher income and sales taxes without reducing or eliminating school district property taxes, he’s 100 percent wrong.
His problem is not the legislature; his problem is that the public simply does not support what he’s trying to force down the throats of the Senate and House.
I discussed my concerns with the governor’s efforts during an interview with WFMZ. You can watch the story here.
Focus on cutting spending; not raising taxes
As you might imagine, given the large number of complex budget-related proposals moving back and forth between the House and the Senate to resolve our five-month budget stalemate with Governor Wolf, the media's coverage—and the attacks on the bills from a variety of special interest groups on the right and the left—have included a number of significant errors. The “budget” is actually many different pieces of legislation.
It is my goal during this difficult process to end this stalemate, caused by the governor’s continuing vetoes, without imposing significant tax increases on our citizens.
I do not support the large tax hikes that were proposed by the governor. Instead, I support a budget balanced with such meaningful reforms as fixing our current pension system, which has been a major contributor to staggering property taxes, and privatizing our state-owned liquor store system.
Please know that I share your goal to save taxpayers’ money and curb wasteful spending.
My colleague, Senator Scott Wagner (R-York), said it best: “Now is not the time to raise taxes on Pennsylvanians – it is time to downsize Harrisburg and make it more efficient.”
As Chairman of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, my colleagues and I are currently working on a number of plans to reduce state spending which I have highlighted below:
I’m always open to your suggestions on how we can work together to lower the cost of and increase efficiencies in state government.