HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The once-in-a-generation celestial event outside the Capitol Monday was referenced inside the building.
“We are thinking about how this otherwise sunny day will be darkened by an obstruction,” said Jeff Garis, of the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center at a press conference in the Rotunda.
The obstruction he, and other social service advocates, referred to are the House Republicans who have yet to take up a Senate-passed spending plan that would fund the $32 billion budget with myriad tax increases. The budget is nearly two months past due and the activists worry an impasse is looming.
“At this point, there is no more fat to cut,” said Marc Stier, Director of the PA Budget and Policy Center. “There’s only muscle to cut. If we don’t raise revenues we cannot balance this budget and we all suffer.”
Following the press conference, a few dozen attendees marched to Speaker of the House Mike Turzai’s (R-Allegheny) office chanting in unison, “Do Your Job.” A secretary politely told them Turzai was not in town but promised to forward their message to her boss.
Representative Will Tallman (R-Adams/Cumberland) insists he is doing his job because his job is to protect the wallets of taxpayers.
“I think it’s a manufactured crisis,” Tallman said of suggestions that the commonwealth is in fiscal jeopardy. “The state has revenue coming in, always do.”
Tallman said conservatives in the House are about to unveil a plan that will balance the books, “without taxes, borrowing or gambling.”
In response to the advocates who fear funding to schools and social service programs will be cut, Tallman said this, “There is enough money to pay for all of the state’s programs, period.”
In actuality, the state is getting loans from the Treasury to keep the lights on.
“It is irresponsible to continue to pay bills with borrowed money.”
That quote did not come from a liberal-leaning advocate, though it could have. No, it came from Joe Scarnati. He’s the Republican President Pro Tempore of the Senate. He didn’t stop at irresponsible.
“It’s unconstitutional,” he said Monday in the Capitol, clearly frustrated at the lack of action by House Republicans.
Scarnati was also frustrated at Tallman and his allies who are now seeking to unveil budgetary savings to balance the books.
“Are there savings to be had?” Scarnati asked.
“Absolutely, but you don’t start talking about this in August. You have to introduce a bill.You can’t just sit and pull the pin out of the grenade, and roll it in, and say this doesn’t work.”
Scarnati knows conservatives hate the tax-filled spending plan that the Senate passed and the that chamber for even putting up a vote that included tax hikes.
Scarnati noted that he’s not exactly been a tax-and-spender in his career and added an additional dig at House leadership.
“I’d rather be criticized for leading, than criticized for doing nothing,” Scarnati said.
So it’s pretty clear that fissures have been exposed between House and Senate Republicans.
Glimpsing harmony between GOP leadership in the legislature was a rarer sight Monday than the moon blocking the sun.