Gov. Tom Wolf is attempting to reframe Pennsylvania’s budget debate ahead of a tax vote planned for Wednesday in the House.
Calling it a “once-in-a-generation vote,” Wolf said Monday he continues to try to cobble together support for broad-based tax increases.
“Doing nothing now is going to result in a huge cut for education. I think that probably is the key element here,” said Wolf at a press briefing at the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg. “And if people didn’t like what they saw four or five years ago, they’re going to hate next year. Because we simply have come to the end of the line using these one-time fixes.”
During the briefing, Wolf methodically outlined the state’s growing mandated spending, which he said has created a structural deficit of at least $2.3 billion – and that’s before the additional spending the governor wants for education and other programs.
He said broad-based tax hikes are needed now to make up for years of what he called dishonest budgeting on top of inadequate funding of schools.
The presentation quoted former Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget secretary Charles Zogby, who toward the end of his tenure repeatedly issued warnings that the state was operating with a bare-bones budget, with little left to cut.
“On this vote on Wednesday, you know, we can’t afford Republicans and Democrats. We need Pennsylvanians,” said Wolf. “We need people who are looking out for the interests of Pennsylvania and looking beyond the narrow partisanship that looks at year-to-year budgets.”
“You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history here,” Wolf added, in an appeal to House lawmakers. “Vote the right way.”
House Republican leaders have invited the governor to send them a tax plan to bring up for a vote this week. They have said there isn’t enough support for broad-based increases.
Wolf’s spokesman says the tax plan remains fluid, but a finalized measure will be submitted to the House Tuesday afternoon. A House GOP spokesman suggested that Wednesday’s scheduled vote could be canceled if the submitted proposal is wildly different from what they’ve already discussed with the governor.