Speaker blasts governor on budget stalemate, Wolf fires back

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The budget stalemate continues 27 days after a spending plan was due.

“The governor should have signed the budget,” House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said during a Monday luncheon at the Pennsylvania Press Club.

Turzai strongly defended House Bill 1192, the GOP-passed budget, while criticizing Governor Tom Wolf for holding strong to his own budget priorities. Turzai brought former Governor Ed Rendell into the dispute.

“He – Rendell – thrived under crisis and chaos to leverage. That day is over,” he said.

Turzai also said Republican lawmakers have noticed the $3 million ad campaign that’s been criticizing GOP lawmakers and pushing Wolf’s budget priorities. They don’t like it.

“It is both tawdry and unprofessional,” Turzai said of a media blitz about the budget while negotiations continue.

Turzai also said lawmakers are having a tough time getting Wolf to move off any of his priorities and may consider recruiting Democrats to override Wolf’s veto. He said there are Democrats that are willing to do that, but then moved off that position in direct questioning by the media afterward. He said he hasn’t taken a count of which Democrats may defect, but only spoke with some who don’t support Wolf’s budget.

“It’s impossible for me to envision a scenario where Democrats would override the veto,” said Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry).

Turzai called a tax on Marcellus Shale drillers, which Wolf supports, “a job killer” that unfairly singles out one industry for higher taxes.

Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan released a statement after Turzai’s remarks that said, in part, “Speaker Turzai continues to stand with oil and gas companies instead of our children and our schools by opposing a commonsense severance tax.”

Turzai, who’s father was a public school teacher, insists Republicans aren’t anti-public schools. He said at $27 billion, Pennsylvania taxpayers spend a lot of money on K-12 education. Too much of that money, Turzai insists, is directed toward pensions for retirees. He said any talk of more money for schools must first include a conversation about pensions.

So, the standoff continues with no end in sight.

The funniest moment of Turzai’s appearance came when he was asked about the GOP presidential field for 2016. He said nice things about Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, Chris Cristie and Marco Rubio, but then added, “Is Donald Trump a Republican?  I can tell you right now I would not be for Donald Trump.”

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