Given the rumblings of an imminent vote on higher income taxes, it's important to remember what happened 12 years ago (nearly to the day!) with our state budget.
Ed Rendell was governor. Republicans controlled the House (108-95) and Senate (28-22). Republicans passed a no-tax-increase budget in early 2003 and were poised to reject job-crushing tax hikes. The governor had line-item vetoed education spending and was holding kids’ education hostage to get his tax increases. Sound familiar?
Gov. Rendell had demanded a 30 percent increase in the Personal Income Tax. I vividly remember Senate leaders in mid-November as they declared their steadfast resolve to not vote for higher taxes. Many expected the House and Senate would hold the line on tax increases. The public was with them!
But then, just before Christmas, the dam burst. 30 Republican representatives and 14 Republican senators–against the will of the majority of their majority–joined with enough Democrats to pass a 10 percent increase in income taxes. Governor Rendell signed the bill on December 23, 2003.
The borrowing of billions followed quickly in 2004, with massive spending increases each year thereafter.
Much has changed since Rendell’s first year in office. Over 76 percent of the House and Senate has turned over. The Republican majority is the largest in 60 years. What hasn't changed, however, are the forces that profit from Big Government: the government unions, which remain as powerful and wealthy as ever before.
And yet here we are today. Will the legislature agree to massive tax hikes without meaningful pension or liquor reforms?
Will 2015 be a repeat of 2003?
Gov. Wolf’s year-long pursuit of higher taxes shouldn’t end like Gov. Rendell’s. History doesn’t need to repeat itself.