FUMO BLASTS GOP FOR HASTY PASSAGE OF PARTIAL BUDGET
HARRISBURG, March 12, 2003 – State Senator Vincent Fumo (D-Philadelphia) today criticized the hurried passage of the state budget by Senate Republicans as a malicious act that will inflict harm on Pennsylvania.
"My mother taught me that two wrongs don’t make a right," said Fumo, the chairman of the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee. "But today, that is what we are faced with. There are two wrongs here. One was done in an innocent way, a trusting way, a somewhat naive way by a governor who prepared a balanced budget by the deadline, then said he would come back in a few weeks to offer the rest of his plan.
"But the other wrong is a cold, calculated, blatantly political and malicious wrong."
Just six weeks after his inauguration, and having inherited a potential deficit of more than $2 billion for fiscal 2003-04, Governor Ed Rendell met the legal deadline for submitting a balanced budget on March 4. It contained billions of dollars in painful cuts, and did not increase state funding for education. Nor did it address other areas such as full-day kindergarten, reduced class size, property tax reform, or economic development.
While it did not require a tax increase, the governor promised to return March 25 and present the second half of his budget proposal to pay for some of those programs, most of which would require tax hikes.
Republicans, however, in what Fumo characterized as a "stampede," hastily passed the budget on a straight party-line vote without holding the customary public hearings, or waiting for the rest of Rendell’s plan. It had previously passed the House, and now goes to the governor.
"This is a scam," Fumo said on the floor of the Senate. "We ought to have a legitimate debate on whether there should be a tax increase. We ought to have a debate about additional education funding, and about funding for drug and alcohol programs, and a lot of other things. The point is, the people of Pennsylvania sent us here to have that debate."
He pointed out that the last governor to face such a fiscal mess immediately upon taking office was Milton Shapp in 1970. Shapp ultimately fought a difficult battle to get enactment of the state income tax through the General Assembly. Fumo said Rendell deserved more time to work on the state’s fiscal problems. Since Rendell had gone out of his way since being elected to show bipartisanship, Fumo said it was a slap in his face for Republicans not to honor his request to be allowed to present the second half of his budget.
"You’re leaving the theater after the first act," Fumo told the GOP senators. "If I thought this was really Ed Rendell’s budget, I’d be up here blasting him, but this is only the first act."
Fumo also took exception to comments by some Republicans indicating that with passage of this budget, the state deficit would be gone. He noted that the budget contains $722 million in one-time spending, including rolling the tobacco settlement money -- $330 million that is supposed to be earmarked for healthcare -- into the General Fund, and draining the remaining $250 million from the Rainy Day Fund. Since that money will not be available again the following year, it still leaves the state with a structural deficit even if there are no spending increases.
"There are people on this side of the aisle who would like to vote for a no-tax-increase budget, and there are people who wouldn’t. But we’re all going to vote ‘No’ because we want to vote honestly, and not participate in this scam," Fumo said.