In the weeks before — and after — the state budget deadline, the air in Pennsylvania’s Capitol tends to be thick with rhetoric and outrage, real or feigned.
The GOP-controlled Legislature has been batting the governor around like a chew toy.
The Senate rejected Gov. Tom Wolf’s pick for state police commissioner and delighted in the Commonwealth Court decision reversing the governor’s decision to fire an agency director.
The House rebuked Wolf’s death penalty moratorium and cried foul over an agency letter warning about the funding ramifications of a late budget.
Wolf’s office hasn’t ceded any ground. The governor has stood by his chosen acting police commissioner.
His administration quickly filed an appeal to the court ruling reinstating longtime Senate GOP aide Erik Arneson as director of the Office of Open Records.
His death penalty moratorium, issued due to concerns that the capital punishment system is flawed and costly, remains in place (though the state Supreme Court is taking up a lawsuit challenging it).
And the governor claims to have had no knowledge of a Department of Labor and Industry letter to the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind.
“This is part of the gamesmanship and the skirmishes that historically go on,” said Terry Madonna, Franklin & Marshall College pollster and political science professor. “I mean, this is sort of not unusual in what often is referred to as ‘silly season,’ when you get down into June.”
But the disputes have little to do with the contents of a state spending plan or how lawmakers would close the roughly $1.6 billion deficit, and GOP leaders haven’t been able to cite specific progress in budget talks.
A top Senate aide characterized discussions as “preliminary” in a comment to Capitolwire this week.
Republicans will have to deliver a plan to the governor’s desk by June 30 or risk being batted around a bit, themselves.