PA’s Teahadist “Eminence Grise” Strikes Again (Updates)

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The Bucks County Courier Times recently gave column space to State Senator Scott Wagner, with predictable results (here)…

More money — $3.6 billion to be exact. That is the amount of additional tax revenue Gov. Wolf wants from you to fund his tax and spend budget. To that I ask, “How dare he?”

Although his budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly was lacking specifics of his 2016-2017 budget proposal, the reality is that Gov. Wolf is continuing the tax and spend theme presented last year.

During his speech, the governor painted a doom and gloom picture as a means to convince the people of Pennsylvania — or maybe himself — that massive tax increases are needed to address the commonwealth’s fiscal problems. He even reflected back on his time as a business owner stating, “You have to take a clear-eyed look at how the problem arose, and then you have to solve it. And fast. Or you won’t be in business very long.”

Besides failing to identify the real problem, Wolf’s only solution is to raise your taxes. Again, how dare he? How dare the governor ask for more money from the people of Pennsylvania without taking basic steps to control costs?

How dare Gov. Wolf ask you to give him more money without:

Doing anything to reform the pension system that is driving costs — and property taxes — through the roof?

Actually, Wolf introduced the pension reform clamored for by Wagner and other Repugs last August, as noted here. But of course, that was shot down by the Repug-controlled General Assembly, including Wagner of course.

And let’s not forget about how public employee pensions prop up local economies (so, if you start cutting, get ready to anticipate the ripple effects, as noted here).

Oh, and Wolf’s budget includes property tax reform, as noted here (with York, the county “represented” by Wagner, poised to do well under the plan – that is, of course, if Wagner would actually support it).

Continuing with Wagner…

Reforming our archaic liquor distribution system to maximize not only consumer convenience but also revenue to the state?

Actually, Wolf took a step in that direction by proposing a private manager, but of course, it isn’t outright privatization, so the Repugs and Wagner opposed it (here).

Continuing with Wagner…

Implementing a real hiring and wage freeze on state workers?

In reality, Wolf ordered a hiring freeze last December, as noted here, even though a state meteorologist managed to get in before the freeze took effect (Wagner made a crack about that here, but as noted here, that’s actually a good idea; I’m sure this Jeff Jumper person could make much more money in the private sector). Of course, state government agencies managed to hire about 3,132 workers anyway; I don’t see how Wolf could be blamed for that.

Continuing with Wagner…

Asking for more concessions from state employees that enjoy pay and benefits unmatched in the private sector?

As noted here for 2012 (the most recent year that I could find data for), on average, a public-sector employee’s salary can range from about $38,000 to about $66,000, with PA workers in the mid-range of that on average; I don’t know how “unmatched” the benefits are, but the pay certainly isn’t.

Of course, demagoguery on the subject of public employees is typical for Wagner who, as noted here, made his fortune in waste disposal and trucking before he won a special election in 2014 and entered public life. And soon after that, he referred to public sector unions as “kind of like Hitler and Stalin and Putin”…nice.

Continuing with Wagner…

Asking for concessions from the money managers that get paid hundreds of millions of dollars to manage the state pension funds?

This may come as a shock, but Wagner is actually right about that. And Wolf agrees with him and has proposed firing the higher-fee managers and replacing them with lower-fee ones, particularly since the funds of the lower-fee managers have outperformed their counterparts (here).

Continuing with Wagner…

Using savings from innovations and efficiency to shrink the looming budget deficit?

I don’t know what that means, and somehow I don’t think Wagner does either.

At this point, I think I’ll stop critiquing the rest of what Wagner said, particularly since he repeats himself like crazy for the rest of his Guest Opinion (besides, at this point, we already know that Wagner is a pro when it comes to regurgitating talking points from the Commonwealth Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and other Teahadist-affiliated groups).

Instead, I’ll provide more information on Wagner, who, as noted here, is a big-time advocate of charter schools (as noted here, Wagner once tried to guess at how well-funded he thought public schools were in his district by flying over them and observing from a helicopter). And as noted above, in addition to direct loans, he also tried some back-door means to fund charters through gaming revenue, which proceeded to totally piss off the school districts where the charters were located (here).

And another thing – let’s not forget how well-versed Wagner is when it comes to the eliminationist rhetoric supposedly employed by Wolf (re., the “garbage” reference Wolf used to refer to the Repug General Assembly proposal last December), with Wagner claiming that he and his same-party pals “had their foot on Wolf’s throat, and (we) let him up” here.

Also, even though the Courier Times has the right to print an opinion of this type no matter how wacky it is, what does it tell you about how far out on the fringe Wagner resides on this issue given that the paper cheered on Governor Wolf when he rejected the GOP’s sham attempt at a budget (here)? This came after a budget more in line with what Wolf has promised passed the PA Senate 43-7, as noted here (and guess who was one of the 7 “No” votes, as noted here?).

As far as I’m concerned, Scott Wagner is more responsible than anyone else in Harrisburg for our current budget impasse for all of the reasons noted previously. And kids, those living in poverty, families, minorities, and working men and women in this state (including those previously-mentioned public sector workers he despises, including policemen, firemen, nurses and teachers among many others) have all suffered and will continue to suffer as a result.

Update 1 3/5/16: Given what Wagner said above, I think it’s important to note the following (from here – h/t Atrios)…

My own state has a budget hole that the legislature is going to blow open worse next year as they expand tax cuts for energy producers, and up north in Pennslyvania (sic), Gov. Wolf is trying to clean up Corbett’s mess but Republicans are having a god damned siezure (sic) over raising the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.4 percent. You read that right. from .0307 to .034. Meaning for every hundred dollars of taxable income, your income tax rises from $3.07 to $3.40. For the median income in PA, that is basically 150 bucks a year.

So when Wagner says “How dare he?” about Wolf, it has to do a tax raise that is, on average, about $150 a year.

I just want to make sure we all understand that.

Update 2 3/5/16: Another response is here.

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Update 3/30/17: So Teahadist Wagner (who of course has announced that he’ll challenge PA Dem Gov. Tom Wolf) believe that climate change is taking place because of “warm bodies” (here)? Truly, it is to laugh (though the consequences definitely aren’t funny of course).

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