By State Sen. Scott Wagner
A week ago (Nov. 3) voters across Pennsylvania elected three new Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices to the PA State Supreme Court.
The three new Justices elected were all Democrats – many parties consider this a blow to the Republican Party – Philly.com reported that as much as $16 million was spent on this race.
In reality, the Democrats raised approximately three quarters of the $16 million – the majority of the money the Democrats raised came from unions and trail lawyers – the Republican candidates were outspent four to one – the Democrats resorted to many negative and inaccurate ads about the Republican candidates.
The PA State Supreme Court is now five Democrats and two Republicans.
This week is a new week – it is time to move on.
I would offer this advice to the new Justices – you can either choose to be a mediocre Judge or be a great Judge.
To be a great Judge will require you to not be influenced by unions and special interests – history, your actions and decisions will judge you.
The election also added a 31st Senator to the Pennsylvania Senate – Republican Guy Reschenthaler won a seat representing the 37th Senate District (Pittsburgh Area).
The State Senate is now 31 Republicans and 19 Democrats.
When the State Senate reaches 34 Republicans we will have veto over-ride power over the Governor – I predict that will occur with the 2016 elections.
The Republican Party is strong in the Pennsylvania House and Senate – Republicans continue to gain seats in both chambers.
On Oct. 19 The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled “Washington’s Revenue Windfall.”
An op-ed could be written about Pennsylvania that would be identical to the Washington article.
It boils down to this – “Give government more money and we can be guaranteed they WILL spend more money.”
I continue to pound on the table that “Harrisburg does not have a revenue problem – it has a spending problem.”
I serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee – as a member I am supplied massive amounts of financial information.
The two most important lines on this report – Sales and Use Tax, and Personal Income Tax tell the revenue story.
The General Fund Summary shows that the 2013-14 year had $28.6 billion received – from 2013-14 to 2019-20 (estimated) each year has $1 billion or more being added in revenue.
Personal income taxes and sales taxes continue to grow each and every year.
What does this mean?
It means wages are going UP, so people are paying more income taxes – last month at one of my companies we purchased a new Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck – the final price was $43,000 – sales tax of 6 percent was assessed ($2,580), I went back to 2005 at the same company and pulled the invoice for the same model truck purchased in 2005 for $29,000 and sales tax paid was $1,740.
The price of the truck purchased in 2005 went up 50 percent over a 10 year period and the sales tax went up almost 50 percent over 10 years – the sales tax increase is approximately 5 percent per year – the rate of inflation from 2005 to 2015 was anywhere from 1 percent to 2.5 percent per year – in fact, the 2008 year had negative inflation.
It is important to note that Harrisburg has a number of expenses that are eating money like a monster – pensions and healthcare – currently there is no end in sight – below is an expense summary.
Harrisburg only understands two words – “more money” – not the same – not less, but always “more money.”
Governor Wolf has not presented one single idea or initiative to reduce waste or spending.
It is time to have a financial day of reckoning in Pennsylvania – we need a Governor who has the guts and backbone to put Harrisburg on a serious diet – Tom Wolf is not the man for the job.
I have been meeting with and having conversations with non-profit leaders over the last several weeks – they are running out of money, many are on their lines of credit.
The general fund budget for the 2014-15 year was $29.1 billion.
The budget presented to Governor Wolf by the Republican House and Senate for the 2015-16 year was for $30.1 billion , an increase of $1 billion.
Governor Wolf wanted a budget passed of $33.5 billion, an increase of $4.5 billion.
The $1 billion increase over last year’s budget is an increase of 3.5 percernt – the current rate of inflation is almost flat.
Here is another fact – From July 1 until Oct. 31, the state has collected $8.9 billion in various taxes, and this money is sitting in the state’s bank account earning virtually zero interest.
As a result of the budget impasse, entities across Pennsylvania are forced to borrow money, which may be approximately $2 billion as of Oct. 31.
The monthly interest cost to borrow $2 billion is approximately $6 million per month borrowing at the prime rate of 3.5 percent.
I have been a private sector business owner for over 35 years, so I consider my experience in finances to be strong.
The budget impasse and the pain that everyone is feeling is because of one person’s ego, and that is Governor Wolf.
I voted for a responsible budget on June 30 – to be clear I will not be voting for any tax increases – it is time for accountability for the money we already send to Harrisburg.
Sen. Wagner represents the 28th District.
Ed note: Yesterday, Nov. 10, State Rep. Mike Vereb posted this on Facebook:
So by now you have heard there is framework agreed to on the budget. I caution that framework means the parties agree on major issues but the next 72 hours are important to keep it together. I myself am not committing either way and will await more details. So far we know they want to increase the sales tax to 7.25 from 6 on items already taxed. They also want to add to the cigarette tax as well as tax e cigarettes and hand rolled cigarettes. In exchange there is also framework on pensions and property tax relief (not elimination which I favor and apparently liquor modernization. That’s what I know tonight. More details to follow. Because of house and senate rules, if a bill was ready to go tonight, it will still take two weeks to get it to the governor. As of right now I favor overriding the Govs veto if the democrats would come on board. But again when more details become available I will let you know.
Wagner Explains Budget