Republican Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is right. The state budget was two weeks late this year.
Even though I rarely agree with him, I applaud Metcalfe for telling the people, and most importantly his party bosses, the truth. Not only did Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican-controlled General Assembly miss the budget deadline this year, it cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars to convene a special House session to give the spending plan final approval in mid-July.
Corbett’s on-time budget promise is now broken.
What was the cause? As the late Paul Harvey would say, “Now, the rest of the story.”
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As much as the governor would like to blame the Democrats, his party has wide majorities in both the Senate and the House. They could pass anything they would like without one Democratic vote. This time, the governor has only his own party leaders to blame for his broken promise.
The trouble started when what is called a “blind amendment” was added to the budget at the last minute. Select rulers of the House knew what it contained, but we in the rank and file did not. I was a loud “no” vote because of the behind-the-scenes amendment process and also because I believe the budget falls short of our commitments to education, transportation and job creation.
This budget, however, passed the House. When the plan arrived in the Senate, the “blind amendment” was stripped after members realized it provided for predatory payday lending in Pennsylvania.
What to do? To save face, the governor and his friends in the House and Senate leadership held a budget signing ceremony anyway. The charade was meant to fool the people of Pennsylvania so it would not appear that the governor broke one of his campaign promises.
The best way to describe what happened: They opened up the checkbook and wrote checks without any money in the bank to cover the expenses. After the spotlight was removed, they called us back into session to pass the fiscal note. I was again a loud “no” vote.
I report all of this to you, because in 2006 I was elected to prevent the very actions that just took place.
Sadly, I believe under this leadership we are back to the days of midnight voting and backroom deal-making. If members of the majority party cannot agree on whether or not they passed a budget on time, how can we expect them to solve the transportation challenges we have, the failing job climate and the crisis in public education?
The late Pete Wambach used to proudly exclaim, “It’s a beautiful day in Pennsylvania.”
I still believe that to be true.
However, “It’s a rare day in Pennsylvania” when I can say Daryl Metcalfe is right.
Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, represents the 77th House District in the state General Assembly.