What would our state look like if everyone could come together and get the job done?

October 26 – It seems as though recently each year in Pennsylvania the budget is late. There’s a deadline in the sense of a date that technically should be completed, but in recent years, that hasn’t really happened. 

And this year…this year is a particular mess, but not really with deadline issues. 

Yes, this year’s budget wasn’t approved until after the June 30 deadline, and while technically it has been signed by Governor Josh Shapiro, it is far from complete. 

There are still a lot of details to iron out and all this is on top of the fact that Senate and House Republicans are still smarting from a promise they were given so they would pass the budget. 

It’s based on school vouchers. The Lifeline scholarship program would provide students in the lowest performing 15 percent of schools in PA money to go to a school of their choice. 

That was initially in the budget that the Republican-controlled Senate passed, but by the time it go to the Democrat-controlled House, Shapiro said he would line-item veto the vouchers. 

And he did exactly that when the budget got to his desk. 

So while technically the budget is passed, there are a whole lot of hard feelings all around and some fiscal details that haven’t been ironed out yet. 

PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “I’ve been talking to constituents this week and trying to help them understand what’s going on and the reality being that the leader of the party (Shapiro) in charge has a crew that is unable to be led. The reality of it is that he’s got a party, a group under him that they’ve gone rogue. They will not be led in trying to bring everybody together and get the job done in Harrisburg.”

It seems as though a year ago, when the Republicans were in charge, things were different. 

Kauffman said, “When you’re in charge, when in the majority for a long, long time you have a robust majority, you know how to govern. We did not do the strong arm governing. Yes, we had the processes we did, but we also talked to Democrats when we didn’t have to talk to Democrats, because they’re part of the process. If they wanted to be part of the conversation, we often engaged them and we were in a significant majority in both the House and in the Senate. The flip side is the folks in the House, the Democrats, have a one seat majority and they’re governing like they don’t need any one else’s participation. They’re almost governing like they don’t need their own governor and they don’t need the Republican Senate. It’s wild to see what’s happening in Harrisburg.” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “In defense of the opposition here, there were times, and you headed up, you were the party leader on the judiciary and when you saw stuff that made no sense Second Amendment wise, in our neck of the woods, south central Pennsylvania, the kooks that are running the show in Philadelphia, they love let’s take away more guns, more rights. You would put the brakes on legislation. Stuff never would see the light of day.”

“Absolutely,” Kauffman confirmed. “We didn’t run silly stuff. I think that’s a big difference. When I chaired the Judiciary Committee last session, we didn’t just run bills out to run bills out because the far right of our party wanted it. Eighty-one percent of the bills that I sent out of the Judiciary Committee got third and final consideration on the House floor. That means they were voted finally on the House floor and sent to the Senate. Right now the House Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee, they run such crazy stuff out of the committee, only 46 percent of the bills that go out of the Judiciary Committee get consideration on the House floor because they can’t even get their party to agree to the crazy. So the folks who are large and in charge, they’re just absolutely off the deep end.”

What would be an example? 

Kauffman said, “When I was in charge, you’ll remember I was the driving force in getting constitutional carry through both the House and the Senate. While it was vetoed by the governor, we got it entirely through the legislative process. Well, they always have their red flag bills and their gun check bills and all of these bills. They sent four gun control bills out of the House Judiciary Committee. That was a couple of months ago. Only two of them got through the House floor. So these folks who are all about gun control could only muster up the support for two of their gun control initiatives.” 

Ryan pointed out, “Now this is really important as you listen because you see the dysfunction in DC right now. Everybody goes, oh boy, I really wish the Republicans would come together and they’d be all lockstep like they are on the Democrat side. This is a first that hearing that okay, you’re not all lockstep at least in Harrisburg when it comes to some of the crazy. They’re very good at some of the crazy. Those red flag laws, that’s crazy. They did that in Maryland and the result is there’s a dead guy in Maryland because of those red flag laws, the judge and jury are the people that take away your guns.”

Kauffman said, “So they have a one seat majority in the House. Well, what they do though, is they stack the committees with a larger majority. So we have 11 Republican members, and they have I believe it’s 15 Democrat members, and they stack it with the most progressive members of their caucus so that they can get anything they want through the committee, but when they get it to the whole caucus, there are still a few people who, while they won’t say it publicly, they’re in their caucus room saying, okay, I can’t do this. This is crazy.” 

“Political suicide,” Ryan suggested.

“Yes,” Kauffman agreed. 

Could the lack of a truly completed budget trickle down to our area? 

Kauffman said, “I think they’re able to put the chewing gum and the duct tape on it to plug the holes.”

Republican Treasurer Stacy Garrity may be able to have some influence here. 

Kauffman said, “It is important that she uses her checkbook, her bully pulpit, because if she doesn’t have statutory authority to release the funding, I don’t think she’s going to be doing that. I think we would have to almost wait until the end of the fiscal year to find out how much, a percentage I think it’s probably in the 20% realm, of funding that can’t be driven out because of the bills that haven’t been done, but I really don’t know if we would get a full read unless we saw the end of the year what was not able to be spent. She’s a tough cookie. She is, I believe, a career military lady. She’s very accessible. She’s out and about. Probably the most active treasurer I’ve seen in recent history.”

Ryan noted, “You put together that military history with fiscal responsibility and the way this state is going right now, and she could have an easy landing, nothing’s easy in politics, but it’s certainly an easy landing. You put that one-two punch together. That’s got some very interesting possibilities.”

Kauffman said, “Let’s be clear, she has a reelection as treasurer next year. My prediction would be that as long as she is successful in her reelection to treasurer, that would put her in very good stead to change things around and possibly go to a next leadership position, which she’s well qualified for virtually anything she would try.”