Yesterday’s legislative breakfast brought up some interesting topics for PA

October 27 – Three Pennsylvania legislators – Representatives Paul Schemel, Rob Kauffman and Rich Irvin – gathered yesterday morning for a sold-out legislative breakfast where a number of issues were discussed. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll moderated the breakfast, where he questioned the legislators and then the audience got a chance to pose questions. 

Barkdoll said, “I just want to say we don’t agree of course with everything they say and there was some daylight yesterday between them on issues, but I think just thoughtful, responsive, guys. They’re truly trying to engage in policy, do what they think is good and right for their constituents. That is nice to see.”

Yesterday began with talk about open primaries and election security in PA.

Barkdoll said, “These three Reps are opposed to open primaries, but yet it looks like the wheels are in motion that this certainly could become law remains to be seen. They all had thoughts on election security.”

Legalized recreational marijuana was also discussed. 

Barkdoll said, “We know Maryland has now done that. These three Reps are opposed to that, but I thought it was interesting, and they all had great reasons and answers for why they’re opposed to it, but representative Kauffman pointed out, he predicts it’s going to become the law here. I mean, they can see the polling. They see the trends within the General Assembly. There are Republicans pushing this as well as Democrats. So Rob thought it would likely become law within five years.”

Interstate 81 was also a big topic. 

Barkdoll said, “We know that’s such a big issue for people in this area. I tried to tie it to the fact that with E-V cars, gasoline and liquid fuels revenue is going to keep declining. So how do you square that with infrastructure needs with 81?” 

Additionally, with all the accidents on 81, it’s easy for vehicles to get tied up, literally sitting on the highway for hours. How would someone in an electric vehicle be able to manage something like that? 

Barkdoll said, “A couple of them pointed out just our lack of even grid infrastructure that could support all of this E-V rollout that we keep seeing pushed from the federal government. They talked about the charging stations and the challenges that that creates. Yes, there are some proposals in Harrisburg that if you have an E-V car, you might have to pay an annual fee. You might even pay a fee based on the mileage that you drive in your car because those E-V owners are not contributing to the gasoline taxes, which is of course the big source of road infrastructure in Pennsylvania. I do wonder, you get a tie up on an interstate for three, four, five, we’ve had some recently that went upwards of seven eight hours, boy if that car is not fully charged, those people could be in a compromised situation.”

The school funding formula and municipal radar also came up. 

The group also dug into the PA budget. 

Barkdoll said, “I don’t think this gets enough attention that last year, there was roughly an $8 billion budget surplus that’s largely still due to COVID money, but the Pennsylvania Budget Policy Institute and they’re a very progressive think tank, they’re projecting a budget deficit of nearly $13 billion in Pennsylvania by 2027. All of the Reps agreed that we have a spending problem. Representative Schemel had some really good comments about the drunken sailors in the legislature, Republicans and Democrats. Games of skill regulation came up. The Reps were a little bit different in that area. I felt that Representatives Kauffman and Schemel were opposed to games of skill. Representative Irvin seemed a little more open in the context that a lot of our social and fraternal clubs rely on that revenue. Childcare was also part of the discussion yesterday. So it was just a really good hour. I think the audience got a lot out of it.”

Going back to the PA budget, the fiscal year that closed on June 30 has an $8 billion surplus and that doesn’t include the $5 billion that went into the Rainy Day Fund. 

Barkdoll said, “This Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, and Representative Kauffman pointed out, this is a progressive think tank which makes this kind of prediction even more dire. They’re saying Pennsylvania is going to have a $13 billion budget deficit for ‘27 and ‘28. Obviously the only way around that is going to be you either have to do massive spending cuts and or massive tax increases. The panel yesterday uniformly agreed that this is a problem, but yet there seems to be no real discussion or appetite from the governor, or in a widespread manner in the House or the Senate, to cut spending. But everyone agrees that this is a big problem on the horizon.”

Irvin said this morning, “We could end up being in a structural deficit that we’ll be dealing with. I look at that as a lot of times your Democratic Party and your Democratic governor are looking to probably spend their way into the majority again. You have to sometimes be the adults in the room and realize that we’re not going to be able to fund every single program that’s out there. The idea that we should be putting money away because we are looking probably to move into a recession in the next year or so. Putting money in the Rainy Day Fund, although it’s not as much, that’s something that we should be doing and the budget secretary this year slighted the Rainy Day Fund by right around $480 million that should have been going into the Rainy Day Fund of balances that were left over from last fiscal year.”

So if we have an $8 billion surplus, how can we end up in a deficit? 

Irvin said, “I think obviously, the projection that we’re looking at is coming from a very leftist group. But the idea is that we’re always dealing, ever since I’ve been in the state legislature, we’re always dealing with a deficit going out, forward. It’s how you govern at the time to make sure that you’re looking five years ahead, that we do not have that deficit, and we make the appropriate adjustments going into a budget. We’re not getting that out of the House Democrats or the administration and the fact that we don’t have the House Republicans who I would say were truly the fiscal conservatives in Harrisburg to put those brakes on a lot of the spending.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “We didn’t realize when the Republicans had control of the House how much the other side was just waiting for any control that they could have to start spending so much. I’m sorry, I hate to generalize. I know there’s good Democrats too, but it seems like the Democratic Party has really gotten into a mode of buying votes. They just want to give everything away and some of them sincerely think that’s a way to make a better country. That’s leaning towards socialism, folks. Democratic legislators I know in Pennsylvania and Maryland they clamor and say, we have this money, we should put it to good use and then they want to do all these giveaway programs for their pet activist programs. There seems to be zero realization or zero willingness to acknowledge things like that future report, from a left leaning think tank for ’27, ‘28 It’s like they never have an idea that this money is not something they should just rush out and spend to the last penny.”

Barkdoll said, “It really is a microcosm of the country. And I thought representative Schemel had good comments about this. I think his comment was something to the effect that the Republicans are drunk as sailors and the Democrats are sloppy drunks. The point being it seems like it doesn’t matter who’s in control. We’ve had a Republican governor, mass control Republican Senate and House, the spending continues. Then it flips to a Democrat governor, Democrat House, Republican Senate, the spending continues. It doesn’t seem to matter who is pulling the levers, you never really see any meaningful cuts. But if this think tank projection is accurate, there’s going to be some very tough decisions on the horizon when it comes to the Pennsylvania government.”

Jansen said, “Well, they’re buying votes. It’s obvious. The Founding Fathers said this republic will last until people can figure out how to vote themselves money. That is what these legislators are essentially doing. They vote themselves favor, money and power.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “Don’t forget your Pennsylvania lawmakers after eight or 10 years, they all get free health care for the rest of their lives. That still burns me up on that one. I just can’t get over that one.”