Your phone calls and emails made a difference. On Wednesday, Sept. 20th, in an overwhelming display of bipartisanship, the PA Senate voted 43-7 NOT to concur with the irresponsible PA House Republican revenue plan. The House GOP plan did not contain recurring revenues or a tax on gas drillers. Instead, it was based on one-time revenues from raiding funds committed environmental, transportation and public safety projects and selling a portion of the state tobacco settlement funds.
The Senate vote sets the stage for the House and Senate to form a Conference Committee with three senators and three House members who will be charged with writing a compromise bill that can be passed in the House and Senate and signed by the governor. This Conference Committee can officially begin when the House comes back into session on Monday and acts on it.
Unfortunately, the PA House leadership’s continued failure to support reasonable recurring revenues to balance the 2017-2018 budget caused Standard & Poor’s to downgrade PA’s credit rating on Wednesday. This is the 6th credit downgrade PA has experienced since 2012. PA now has a lower credit rating than every state in the nation except for Illinois and New Jersey and this most recent downgrade will cost taxpayers tens of millions of taxpayer dollars as the state will face higher borrowing costs in the future.
Refusing to raise recurring revenue to pay the state’s bills is not fiscally conservative, as some lawmakers claim, it is outrageously irresponsible and it hurts Pennsylvanians.
We cannot afford for lawmakers to continue playing games with the PA budget. It is time for Mike Turzai and Republican extremists in the PA House to abandon reckless, irresponsible budget proposals that would drive Pennsylvania off of a fiscal cliff. They must compromise with bipartisan members in the Senate and House to pass a responsible revenue package that will put PA on sound financial footing and ensure that the state can make critical investments in public education and other things that matter in our communities.
A severance tax on gas drillers MUST be a key component of any recurring revenue package. PA is the only state with large gas reserves that does not have a severance tax. Because most PA gas is sold out of state, only a small portion of a future severance tax will be paid by Pennsylvania consumers. Lawmakers must tax drillers at the same rate as other states in our region and this tax MUST NOT be tied to giveaways to the gas drilling industry that strip environmental protections and threaten clean water and air in our communities.
We look forward to the return of the PA House to Harrisburg on Monday and are hopeful that House leaders will go to a Conference Committee where they will finally engage in real budget negotiations.