HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The state budget impasse is now 163 days. And counting.
What exactly is your specific lawmaker doing to break the stalemate and get a deal done?
Pennsylvanians elect 203 representatives and 50 senators. Those lawmakers the elect leaders to represent their caucus m in budget negotiations. Those leaders have thus far failed.
“It’s been extremely disappointing to people like me who really just wanted to do our job and we wanted to do it in June,” said Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery).
“We’re all frustrated,” said Representative Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny,Washington). “The people back home are more frustrated. They’re sick of listening to the people they elected who can’t seem to get something done.”
It’s an odd situation. For months and months and months rank-and-file lawmakers have been saying that they’re waiting on their leaders and the governor to come up with a budget. They watched. They waited. They watched and they waited. Finally, last week the leaders said they DID have a budget until GOP members saw it and said oh no you don’t.
Meanwhile, while shelters and schools and pantries go without, lawmakers and their staffs continue to get paid. Out-of-area lawmakers can even collect tax-free per diems for all the days they showed up at the Capitol and didn’t get a budget done. Most Midstate legislators are either ineligible for per diems or choose not to take them.
In part, voters created the conundrum.
“The governor was elected on raising taxes,” said Representative Will Tallman (R-Adams). “But we were elected to limit government and those are two divergent points. We have a mandate too”
House Republicans, and many of their constituents, insist the new budget should contain NO tax increases. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Governor Wolf counters that he’s come way down from his initial budgetary request that was chock full of new taxes.
So it’s a complex political problem. But there’s also a simple truth. The men and women you elected are mostly spectators as the budget train repeatedly jumps the tracks. So Pennsylvanians are asking, what is my senator, what is my representative, doing to break the stalemate?
“I understand that point and it’s probably a legitimate point,” Tallman admits. “You can’t have 119 representatives and 31 senators sitting in a room, and that’s just the Republicans. You can’t do it that way.”
Of course the way they ARE doing it clearly isn’t working.
Critics wonder why their lawmakers aren’t camping outside the leaders’ offices, demanding a deal get done, or threatening to boot them from leadership when it isn’t.
“They have surrendered,” said Hampden Township resident Gil Longwell. “I didn’t send somebody off to Harrisburg to surrender. I sent them off to represent me.”
Longwell’s lived in Cumberland County and twice run, unsuccessfully, for the state house. He says next year’s an election year and voters should remember this year’s budget fiasco.
“We have 254 people (203 Representatives, 50 Senators, Governor) who were elected to be leaders and aren’t. If they are re-elected then I should have a mirror and look at the culprit because I’m as big a culprit as those 254.”