Gov. Wolf: Time for House Republicans to act on budget

Wolf Consolidating Agencies
Gov. Wolf during a news conference in Harrisburg in May.

On June 30, working with Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly, we passed a bipartisan, compromise budget that cut more than $2 billion in government waste and streamlined services for the people of Pennsylvania. We also invested more in our classrooms and directed greater resources to medical professionals and law enforcement to fight the commonwealth’s opioid and heroin crisis.

This budget avoided dire financial consequences, and House Republicans supported it overwhelmingly, with 98 House Republicans voting for the legislation.

Unfortunately, to date, House Republican leaders who control the legislative calendar have not held a vote on the additional budget-related bills to put the agreed-to spending plan into balance.

After unilaterally leaving bipartisan negotiations and then failing to pass their own ‘plan B’ in July, House Republican leaders have since refused calls to act with any urgency to complete the budget.

This is despite warnings from outside credit agencies that they will downgrade Pennsylvania’s credit rating. Those agencies have made it clear: If a revenue package is not passed to balance the budget in the next couple of weeks, they will further downgrade our already diminished credit rating, following five downgrades during the previous administration.

Though Pennsylvanians were assured that the House Republican majority would return as soon as possible to act upon the bills sent by the Senate, it is not clear when their work will be completed. Time is not on our side.

On Sept. 15, the commonwealth will not have the money to pay its obligations, putting us in a much more dire financial situation. Pennsylvania’s treasurer has cautioned that he may not execute further short-term borrowing without action from the General Assembly to put the already passed spending plan into balance.

Nearly everyone recognizes this stark reality, and working with Senate Republicans and Democrats, we all found consensus on a plan that balances the budget and provides the commonwealth with greater stability after decades of uncertainty.

Without further action by the House to address this revenue gap, the consequences that will be forced upon the commonwealth could be devastating to many important programs.

To be clear, I fully support the enacted budget authorized by the General Assembly that funds our schools and programs for seniors, fights the opioid epidemic, and invests in job training. But this is a simple math problem. House Republicans have a constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget, and they have yet to embrace it with any urgency.

Now is the time to put politics aside. House Republicans must return to Harrisburg and get the job done.

Tom Wolf is governor of Pennsylvania. governor@pa.gov @GovernorTomWolf