The Governor is now forced to choose

Article posted on June 30, 2015

It was a long day on the floor, but well worth it. We passed the budget, and the liquor reform and pension reform bills. The budget has no tax increases and includes the phase out of the corporate stock and franchise tax. When you total up all of the spending on K-12 education, it comes to an additional $3.5 billion. This is much more education funding than the Governor proposed, but I suspect he’ll say it isn’t enough. We passed pension reform that was greatly modified, but still saves over $3 billion, and did a comprehensive reform bill to get the state out of the liquor business. The Governor is now forced to choose between the best interests of his citizens or the special interests of those who want even more from the pockets of their fellow Pennsylvanians.

-John

LISTEN: Senator Eichelberger’s Comments on the GOP’s Balanced Budget Plan

Article posted on June 30, 2015

HARRISBURG (June 30, 2015) – Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. (R-Blair) spoke out strongly on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon in support of House Bill 1192, the Republican balanced budget plan.

“What we put on the table before this General Assembly is a solid, defensible budget that provides real relief for people in many ways, it provides real investment for people in many ways, and we are looking at solving the underlying problem of the pension issue,” said Senator Eichelberger. “The people who should win out are the vast majority of Pennsylvanians who want to see a better day.”

Click here to listen to Senator Eichelberger’s full remarks

A tough case to make

Article posted on June 29, 2015

The legislative process is complicated and designed to take days of time for bills to pass through the legislature. Both the House and Senate have bills on our calendar for a minimum of three days. Some bills go through the Rules Committee and some through the Appropriations Committee. So a lot of planning goes into moving bills for a budget and dictates when the votes will happen. In addition to the time elements, there are other rules like having all revenue bills begin in the House and having any amendments comply with the “single subject” rule. Although we had a full listing of bills on the calendar to vote today, including one of my bills, the budget bills and the liquor privatization bill were all set up to be eligible for a vote tomorrow. The House has the pension reform bill ready for a vote. It should be sent back to the Senate for concurrence tomorrow, as well. So far, the schedule has come together and the budget, liquor reform and pension reform bills will all be done before the midnight deadline, with the exception of the funding bills for state-related universities, which require a two-thirds vote. The Democrats have refused to vote for any part of the budget, so these won’t make it in. They could be added later, but are not required. It will be up to the Governor to then decide to keep all or parts of what is delivered to his desk. He’s talking veto, but making the case to raise taxes when you have a budget waiting for your signature that covers the state’s major spending needs and does not dig into the pockets of the taxpayers any further, is a tough case to make.

-John

The shell game the Governor proposes is unacceptable

Article posted on June 26, 2015

The Senate and House announced our budget agreement this afternoon, a $30,179,476,000 spending plan that has absolutely no tax increases. This budget increases most budget lines, many substantially, including an additional $100 million for Basic Education, more for pre-school, more for school construction, more for universities and more for student loans, all for $1.5 billion less than the Governor’s plan. The Governor panned the proposal later this afternoon, but has no plan and no votes to pass his massive tax increases. There are no “gimmicks” in this budget. In fact, the Governor’s plan took hundreds of millions off-line, which is the definition of a “gimmick.” We also have a liquor privatization plan that will be announced on Sunday and the pension reform bill that will be finished next week. The shell game the Governor proposes, backed by the PSEA and other public sector unions, is unacceptable.

-John

The schools wanted this formula

Article posted on June 25, 2015

The budget situation is about the same today. The legislature is still working through the process and, so far, is on track to complete the budget on time. In addition to the series of bills that comprise the budget, a liquor reform bill and pension reform bill are expected to be passed. The Republican Caucus had a presentation on the new school funding formula this afternoon, which may be included in the budget this year. The new formula is based primarily on the number of students in the school district, then factors in variables such as: poverty, number of English language learners, charter school enrollment, the sparsity of the district, the median household income of the district, and the tax effort capacity of the district. The schools wanted this formula, but I’m not sure if they will like how their individual district’s funding works out.

-John

The wishes of the majority of Pennsylvanians

Article posted on June 24, 2015

There is still no indication that the Governor will be working with the legislature to reach a budget deal by the constitutional deadline of June 30. Fortunately, the House and Senate have continued to work together and I expect a budget to be delivered to the Governor’s desk by the 29th or 30th. As with any budget, there are things I like and things I don’t, but, holding the line on taxes and spending are my priority. At this time of the year, virtually every group that comes into my office asks for more money. It’s part of the process and works the same way for all government officials. Sometimes you just have to say “no” and sometimes it makes sense to provide additional funding. And regardless of what you may want to do for someone, in a legislative body, it takes a majority to make it happen. This is the ninth state budget I’ve worked on and, so far, the environment in the legislature is as good as I can remember. There is a willingness to work through issues and a healthy level of trust. The Governor’s office is a much different story. His commitment is to the public sector unions and their agenda is to preserve the status quo with higher taxes and spending. The question is how much he is willing to fight against the wishes of the majority of Pennsylvanians.

-John

Who could be against a measure like this?

Article posted on June 23, 2015

The Governor did not help move the budget process forward today, but the House and Senate continued work on the budget, pension reform and liquor reform. It looks more and more like the legislature will be producing a budget by June 30 without Tom Wolf’s help. This is an unfortunate situation, but one that was somewhat expected. When you introduce a budget that not one single House Democrat could support, and continue to fight for the largest proposed tax increase by any Governor in history, the word compromise doesn’t seem to fit. The House State Government Committee held a meeting this morning at 7:30, yes 7:30. There was a package of two Senate bills on the agenda concerning transparency in union negotiations. Senator Folmer’s bill would require the Independent Fiscal Office to do an analysis on a proposed labor agreement including the cost of wages and benefits. Senator Stefano’s bill would make the terms and costs of a proposed agreement available to the public for two weeks before signing. These bills passed on a party line vote. With all of the rhetoric about transparency in government, who could be against a measure like this?

-John

You should start seeing advertisements very soon

Article posted on June 22, 2015

A story broke today that might be the bell weather for the budget talks. At eight days from the constitutional deadline, the Governor announced the formation of a new PAC to advance his agenda. As the legislature works to put together realistic numbers and reach some sort of compromise on issues, the Governor is buying ad time to convince Pennsylvanians that higher taxes and spending is a good idea. You should start seeing advertisements from the PAC called “Rebuild Pennsylvania” very soon.

-John

Enjoy your special recognition

Article posted on June 21, 2015

I didn’t see much worth mentioning in the Sunday papers. The main themes were the budget and comments made by former State Rep. Mike Veon, who just got out of prison this week from his role in the BonusGate scandal. There was work being done on the budget this weekend, including today at the Capitol with House and Senate leadership. The entire legislature will be back tomorrow and see where we stand and what most members can stomach to get to an agreement. Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. I received a call from Johnny this afternoon and thought about my father who died when I was 11. To all of the dads out there, do your best for your family, always, and enjoy your special recognition today.

-John

He knows most of them will never have enough votes to pass

Article posted on June 20, 2015

I didn’t have any events scheduled today, so after my men’s fellowship group I did office work then got my yard mowed before the rain came. We were told to prepare to be in Harrisburg from Monday to July 1st, so I need to catch up with anything that has to be done at home before I head back. My take on the budget is that the legislature will deliver one to the Governor by the constitutional deadline of June 30, with or without his help. Whether he digs in his heels over the next few days or works out compromises with House and Senate leadership remains to be seen. The legislature is requiring pension reform and liquor reform to be part of the deal. I’m not sure what his final priorities will be because he put so many issues on the table with his budget proposal. But, he knows most of them will never have enough votes to pass.

-John