By Sen. Scott Wagner
This is an update on the latest budget vote in the Pennsylvania Senate that occurred yesterday (March 16) at approximately 2 p.m.
The words swirling around in my head as I write this email are – upset, angry, disgusted, disappointed and irresponsible, for starters.
The State Senate voted on House Bill 1801 yesterday – HB 1801 is a supplemental appropriation bill for the 2015-16 year which provides $6.05 Billion to restore line items vetoed by Governor Wolf in December.
HB 1801 passed with 30 Senate Republicans and one Senate Democrat voting yes.
Eighteen Senate Democrats voted no.
Governor Wolf has repeatedly stated he will veto HB 1801.
If three\more Senate Democrats had voted “yes” then we would have had 34 “yes” votes – enough to override Governor Wolf’s veto.
There are at least six Democratic Senators who represent school districts and non-profit agencies in their districts that have borrowed money and have serious financial challenges.
What is upsetting to me is that these Democratic Senators are being intimidated by Governor Wolf and the Senate Democratic Leadership, which is dominated by Pittsburgh and Philadelphia members.
My question is very simple to my Senate Democratic colleagues – how can you come to Harrisburg and complain about how bad things are back in your Senate District and then proceed to not vote to restore funding for the schools and non-profits in your district?
How can you go back to your Senate Districts and face your constituents?
Last week the State House of Representatives held Appropriation hearings – Budget Secretary Randy Albright stated during a hearing that budget vetoes by Governor Wolf on June 30 and Dec. 23 of last year for the 2015-16 budget packages sent to him by the House and Senate were “to make the clear statement that it (the overall amount of funding earmarked for state aid to public school in the GOP crafted budget) is not enough.”
To be clear the statement made by Budget Secretary Albright as to why Governor Wolf vetoed budgets sent to him means “leverage” over conservative and responsible Republicans. In my private sector business world this is similar to being backed into a corner – and I don’t like being backed into a corner.
After several weeks of Senate Appropriations meetings starting on Feb. 22 and lasting until March 8, it is even more apparent than ever to me that Pennsylvania State Government is out of control.
Here is a great example: Seven State Corrections Officers made over $100,000 just in overtime alone in 2015, the overtime earned is on top of their base wages which can range from $60,000 to $85,000.
During last year’s Appropriations hearings the Secretary of Corrections stated that he did not anticipate any new hires, but in fact some officers may work some additional overtime to avoid having to hire additional employees.
The 2015 records show that overtime has skyrocketed and the Department of Corrections has hired 400 new employees.
As a sitting Senator, do I have the authority to question the Secretary of Corrections on the excessive overtime being reported and the new hires?
Almost every agency that appeared in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee reported that for every $1 of compensation that is paid, an additional $0.80 to $1 is spent covering benefits.
In the private sector the percentage ratio of benefits to compensation is typically under 50 percent.
At my various companies the benefit percentage is around 45 percent.
What does this mean? It means that benefits for state employees are two to three times more generous than the private sector.
If Governor Wolf chooses to veto HB 1801 and inflict more financial pain on Pennsylvanians it is time to recognize just how irresponsible this Governor really is.
Governor Wolf is Pennsylvania’s CEO. He needs to start acting like it.
He needs to hold every agency secretary accountable for their budgets.