Summer is hot in Philadelphia but nowhere is hotter than Harrisburg.
Last week GOV. TOM CORBETT vetoed funding for the legislature and some funding he termed WAMs (walking-around monies), which he accused the legislature of doling out to favorite projects. The Governor was quickly denounced for his veto by House MAJORITY LEADER MIKE TURZAI and Senate MAJORITY LEADER DOMINIC PILEGGI.
The response to the Governor’s veto was swift and overwhelmingly rejected it as poor politics and poor policy. Both Pileggi and Turzai said the Governor can’t work with the General Assembly. This shows a major problem between the Governor and his legislative leaders. It seems questionable if they can deliver pension reform for the Governor; the more-appropriate question is whether they want to deliver on the Governor’s priority — especially after his veto and rebuke of their budget.
Also hanging in the balance is the Philadelphia cigarette-tax legislation. The $2-per-pack tax would help fund city schools. Both the Senate and the House seem to be in agreement on passing the cigarette tax. The question is whether to have a five-year sunset for the legislation. Apparently tobacco lobbyists were able to get the five-year sunset plan into the bill. It is unclear if the House will go along. They will reconvene on Aug. 4 to reconsider the cigarette-tax bill.
The House may also consider a second billing Aug. 4. And they may consider a bill to override the Governor’s veto of the budget. It’ll be interesting theater to see if the Senate and House Republicans and Democrats come together to provide a two-thirds vote to override the Governor’s veto. Overriding the Governor’s veto would be a big punch in the gut for him and may foreshadow the help he will receive in the fall for the members of the General Assembly. Instead of House and Senate Republicans running to help the Governor, they may be running away from him lest his unpopularity lead to their downfall and their loss of the majority in one or both chambers.
Not everything is doom and gloom in the General Assembly. MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER earned high marks from Republican legislators for his work to pass the cigarette tax. Although he only has one and a half years left in office, the work he did this summer could help him with next year’s city budget. It could also help if he chooses to seek higher office in the future.
One of the candidates seeking to succeed Mayor Nutter in the Mayor’s office, STATE SEN. ANTHONY WILLIAMS, played a large role in helping pass the cigarette tax. If the tax is passed and successful, look for Williams to highlight this effort as an example of getting things done in Harrisburg to help the city. It could be a clear difference between him and other candidates for the Mayor’s office in the 2015 election.