Vulakovich Statement on Senate Passage of Fiscal Year 2017-18 Revenue

In June, the General Assembly passed a spending plan for Fiscal Year 2017-18; however, it did not contain an accompanying plan to pay for it.  Today I voted for a bipartisan funding plan that pays for not only the budget but the deficit from the prior year’s budget.  As such, if the House concurs and the Governor signs the bill, Pennsylvania will have a truly balanced budget which meets our Constitutional obligation. 

This revenue package includes a modest Severance Tax on Marcellus Shale drilling, while also providing needed regulatory relief to the industry.  It also provides uniformity to utility costs by restoring the gross receipts tax on natural gas consumers, and requiring online marketplaces to collect sales tax like a brick and mortar store.  As a fellow taxpayer, the last thing I want to do is ask for you to pay more. However, the revenues passed today are needed to ensure essential services will continue to be funded.  If you take out mandated costs like human services, corrections, and pensions, we are actually spending less money today on discretionary programs than we did in 2010. 

I remain committed, as I always have been, to finding ways to save money in government operations.  In my own office I have consolidated my district offices, refused to take the unaccountable legislative per-diems, and for the tenth straight year refused to take my Cost-of-Living adjustment, thus keeping my salary at the 2007 level.  I continue to work on a cost effective solution for the Statewide Public Safety Radio system, which has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.  I am also working to implement my studies on eliminating unneeded state Boards and Commissions and ensuring effective office space management by the state. 

It is important to note, if the General Assembly does nothing, the state will be functionally bankrupt.  There are no good options for us to meet the fiscal needs of the state. I have fought for good government reforms, a new pension system, and human services reforms that have yielded significant savings for the state.  However, we still face a hole in our state budget that must be closed. 

For too many years we have been kicking-the-can-down-the-road with growing deficits leading to fiscal irresponsibility.  This was not a vote I wanted to make, but I have a Constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget.  It is my hope, that the House of Representatives will return to Harrisburg and begin a thorough and appropriate discussion on the necessary budget bills that were passed in the Senate on July 27.  The budget bills that the Senate passed are intended to be another part of the process to fulfill our sworn Constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget.  We must continue the process toward this end.  The suggestion by some that “we can just wait until September to finish” is unacceptable and reckless. 

I fully expect and welcome future deliberations by members of the House.  I fully expect amendments to the Tax Code bill.  It is my hope that the House will debate and pass non-tax options and – if necessary — return them to the Senate for concurrence.  So far, the House has been unsuccessful.  Therefore the Senate felt that it was time to stop waiting and to start taking action.  That is what we have done.  There is one thing that a good leader does – he or she leads.  Leaders force discussions that others avoid.  Leaders work toward consensus.  I will lead.  This is my sworn duty. 

 

Contact:         Charlie O’Neill (717) 787-6538 coneill@pasen.gov