The framework for the budget deal should be considered a victory for Governor Wolf.
The Governor needed to hold out on the budget to get what he wanted, historic increases to public education. It was what he campaigned on and it was what the people sent him to Harrisburg to get. In order to get this, the Governor proposed a personal income tax increase, a new severance tax, closing sales tax exemptions on certain items and a property tax reform. The Governor did not get the the personal income tax increases, a severance tax or property tax reforms, but he did get some sales tax exemptions he needed in order to get the education increases he needed.
The basic education subsidy would see a $350 million increase, special-education and pre-k funding would each receive a $50 million boost, in addition to $10 million more for Head Start.
“This is a big win for the state of Pennsylvania,” said Wolf, who described the increase in basic education funding “historic,” and worth the long wait.
“In a limited government, free market economy there is nothing more important a government can do than investing adequately in education,” he said. “Republicans have an overwhelming majority in the Senate and the House, I am a rookie Democratic governor. Having such a historic increase is a nice thing. In my mind, this is a big deal.”
The funding increases would be paid for largely by extending the reach of the state sales tax — adding new items, closing existing loopholes and jettisoning some exemptions for services and items that emerged in recent decades.
Pennsylvania will most likely keep its liquor system in place, which brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Another victory for the Governor.
For a week or so, it appeared that the Senate, with bi-partisan support – was going to completely upend Pennsylvania’s tax system by eleminating property taxes, increasing sales taxes and personal income taxes and pinning the tax burden on the working class.
There will be some sort of pension reform. Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of Pennsylvania’s finest legislators at the local watering holes and this should not come as a surprise. Pension reform was one of the issues that Democrats were willing to give Republicans even though the Governor was against the move.
Again, from WHYY:
The pension system for future state workers, including teachers, would be modified as a hybrid of a defined benefit and a defined contribution plan — placing a share of the market risk on future individual employees, while removing some from the state and local school boards.
I am coming to the end of my first full year in Harrisburg. All I can say is that it was one thing to cover and write about Harrisburg from the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley area over the past three years and it is a completely different place to experience up close and personal. I still consider myself a novice of some sorts, but I felt like I entered the city at an extremely toxic time. It started out with the coup in the Senate leadership and a more radically conservative House that went into fighting over cabinet nominations into the prolonged budget stalemate that saw very little urgency to get things done. I don’t know if I will ever experience another protracted budget fight like this one, but it was an ugly experience that left the most cynical people shaking their heads.