Spat with Corbett previews upcoming legislative trouble
HARRISBURG – The Republican in-fighting that came to a head during June’s budget process may very well spill over into the fall legislative session.
That’s not good news for anyone who is hoping to see lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett work out their differences and come together to pass a transportation funding bill, a liquor privatization bill or a pension overhaul bill.
Just take a look at the letter penned by state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Metcalfe, one of the most outspoken and influential members of the House GOP’s conservative wing, calls out Corbett and his fellow lawmakers over the on-time-budget-that-really-wasn’t. But then he went a step further, challenging Corbett’s plan to uncap the state’s gasoline taxes in order to fund transportation infrastructure projects.
“I disagree with Corbett’s gas-tax proposal, which could increase pump prices by 28 cents per gallon. His proposal would also funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into mass transit, not roads and bridges,” Metcalfe wrote.
This is new territory for Corbett.
By now he is used to liberals and moderates attacking him for the “no-tax pledge” that has becohttp://paindependent.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpme a central aspect of his three years in office. Now, he is facing heat from his own right flank over the tax increase proposal at the center of the transportation funding plan.
“This is a classic example of these divisions within the Republican party that, as much as anything else, is going to allow the Democrats to become the functional majority in the state,” said Terry Madonna, a pollster and professor of political science at Franklin and Marshall College.
Corbett’s office did not return calls for comment about Metcalfe’s letter.
Democratic operatives were gleefully passing around Metcalfe’s letter on Monday morning emails, but the spat between Corbett and the anti-tax wing of the House GOP makes it harder for the General Assembly to pass a transportation funding plan, something almost all Democrats in Harrisburg say is necessary.
In June, the state House was ready to pass a transportation plan despite opposition from Metcalfe and about 30 other conservative Republicans. But Democrats withdrew their votes because the package did not spend enough money in the right places (mass transit), leaving the transportation bill well short of the necessary 102 votes.
If transportation funding is going to pass in the fall, House leaders will have to thread that same needle. And fractures in the majority will give Democrats more influence in the process, but only if they are willing to play ball this time.
Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or @PAIndependent.
The Pennsylvania Independent is a public interest journalism project dedicated to promoting open, transparent, and accountable state government by reporting on the activities of agencies, bureaucracies, and politicians in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a conservative nonprofit organization.