More than three weeks into a state budget impasse, PA House Speaker Mike Turzai and his extremist followers have surfaced as the holdouts who are preventing the legislature from passing a responsible revenue package to fund the 2017-2018 state budget.
This week Turzai abruptly walked away from budget discussions where other leaders had built broad bipartisan consensus for new recurring revenues in the budget.
Turzai laid a proposal on the table that would fund more than $2 billion in the 2017-2018 budget solely through borrowing, massive gambling expansion, one-time revenues, and liquor privatization. He then took his ball and went home.
The reckless, irresponsible proposal that Turzai and House extremists are insisting upon is exactly the kind of revenue package that the ratings agencies warned would lead to a credit downgrade for PA and millions in increased borrowing costs each year.
The Turzai budget proposal would also create a massive deficit in the 2018-2019 budget and put in jeopardy funding for our children’s school districts in future budgets.
Starving the PA budget of funding for public education in PA may just be one of Mike Turzai’s goals. Not only is he putting future funding for K-12 schools in jeopardy, Speaker Turzai seems willing to block funding for Pennsylvania’s state-related colleges and universities — Penn State, Temple, Pitt, and Lincoln — in order to avoid raising recurring revenues.
In case you didn’t already know, Mike Turzai is a school privatization evangelist cut from the same cloth as U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.
He is the driving force behind the House passing a $55M increase in Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) funding for private/religious school tuition breaks for middle class families. The Senate did not take up HB 250; instead lawmakers have placed a $20M increase in EITC funding in the school code bill.
Turzai is also a proponent of charter school expansion, regardless of the quality of education that the schools provide students or the increases in local property taxes communities will experience.
He has sponsored legislation that would strip local control from communities by forcing the massive expansion of charter schools in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh without the approval of local taxpayers, who would foot 100% of the charter school tuition bills.
In addition, in what many would consider a misuse of his office, Turzai sent a letter threatening that failure to renew the charters of two schools could put in jeopardy state funding for the School District of Philadelphia.
The PA House will be in Harrisburg for a rare weekend session and your state representatives will decide if they will follow Mike Turzai and other extremists or if they will do what is right for PA and for our kids and support a responsible revenue package to fund the budget. Please tell your state representative to stop playing political games with PA’s finances and our children’s futures.