DN Editorial: Emboldened by Trump win, rural Pa. lawmakers may go after cities

PHILADELPHIANS should brace themselves for what's coming in the next four years. It is going to be a bumpy ride.

For starters, there is President-elect Donald Trump. Forget about his tweets; he can't help himself.

We should be more worried about tax and budget cuts the president and Republicans in Congress are eager to make, which are sure to impact federal spending on everything from food stamps to housing to Medicaid to ... you name it (except defense).

But the clear and present danger is closer to home - 100 miles away in Harrisburg. There, the newly fortified Republicans in the House and Senate await. Not only are some of them rabid opponents of spending, many of them are against big cities - which, to them, represent all that is wrong with Pennsylvania. Too many poor. Too many people of color. Too many immigrants. Too many Democrats. Sinkholes that consume far too much state money.

In the past, those of us who live in places such as Philadelphia, Erie, Pittsburgh, Allentown and Scranton have had a buffer against these beliefs. The legislature was led by Democrats from these cities or by moderate (often sympathetic) suburban Republicans.

The November election did away with that buffer. Rural and small-town voters were the key to Trump winning and also increased the Republicans' numerical edge in the state House and Senate.

You could say the Democratic legislators in Harrisburg are no longer the minority party; they are a super-minority party.

In the 50-member state Senate, the Republicans picked up three seats, giving them a 34-16 edge over the Democrats. That 34 is significant because it is the number of votes needed to override a governor's veto. That puts the agenda of incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf, a liberal Democrat, in jeopardy.

In the 203-member state House, the Republicans also picked up three seats, giving them a 122-81 edge over the Democrats - not the 134 required for veto overrides but enough to get the 102 votes needed pass legislation without a single Democratic vote.

As important, not a single city or suburban legislator is in the top leadership. Mike Turzai, the House speaker, is from McCandless Township in Allegheny County (population 28,400); Dave Reed, the Republican leader, is from Indiana County (87,000); Joe Scarnati, the top Senate Republican, is from Jefferson County (44,966).

The Republicans won't have much time to celebrate their rise to power. Wolf and the Legislature will again have to face that old demon: a big budget deficit. The state's Independent Fiscal Office estimated last week that the deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30 is likely to be $500 million, and the deficit going into fiscal 2017 will be $1.7 billion.

The Republicans who beat back Wolf's attempt to increase taxes two years ago will be more opposed to any tax increase in the coming year. And Wolf will not have the political mojo to get his way, even if he does propose new or increased taxes.

The emphasis among Republicans will be on cutting the budget, especially among those legislative Republicans lining up to run for governor in 2018. They will want to prove their bona fides as leaders of the pro-Trump, anti-tax and anti-spending. In fact, they can argue - with some justification - that they have been given a mandate by the voters to downsize government and to exercise their anti-urban instincts.

The knives will be out. And you can be sure where on the map the sharp ends will be pointed.