Pennsylvania House Democrats passed a $46.4 billion spending plan Monday, which Republicans immediately decried as “unsustainable.” The budget is a 13 percent increase over the current $40.5 billion budget.

Republican House leaders held a press conference to blast the Democrats’ budget bill. They noted state revenue is only growing at 3 percent. They said it would also deplete the state’s Rainy Day Fund and budget surplus.

The bill, which passed along party lines 102-101, is about $1.4 billion higher than the budget requested by fellow Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro.

“House Democrats today completely broke with their governor, Josh Shapiro, by gutting his budget and replacing it with a bloated spending plan that reflects their unilateral priorities,” House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said.

“While Gov. Shapiro’s budget was bad enough, Democrats today have increased spending and raised taxes, bloated state government, and rammed through a massive and unsustainable spending plan with only six hours for lawmakers and the public to read it,” Cutler added. “This is not only gross mismanagement and a lack of transparency by House Democrats, but it is the kind of sneak attack politics that the public abhors.”

House Republican Appropriations Chairman Seth Grove (R-York) called the spending plan pushed by House Democratic leadership a “bait and switch” and a “sneak attack” since the Democrats did not share it before an appropriations committee on Monday, the day they also voted to adopt it.

“A simple kitchen-table idea is that you should not spend money you do not have. However, the budget created and forced through the House today by House Democratic leadership not only does that, but it ensures money the state has to save Pennsylvanians from a tax increase will be gone earlier than anyone expected,” Grove said.

“On top of that, this budget continues its attack on small businesses by weaponizing the Department of Labor and Industry, puts Pennsylvania on a path to insolvency, and reflects the one-sided priorities of one legislative caucus,” Gove added. “There is so much in here that Democrats must be ashamed of that they rushed their unilateral spending plan through with only a few hours for Pennsylvanians to see what is in it.”

Grove also said the bill includes about $663 million in revenue from RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade carbon program. Those costs “raise the cost of energy” for Pennsylvanians and send more money to Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court currently has a pending case that would block RGGI, which was not approved by the legislature but unilaterally entered into by former Gov. Tom Wolf.

Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Richboro) said her constituents, especially senior citizens, are worried.

“I heard from many, particularly seniors, who asked if there was anything they could do about the rising cost of cooling their homes in the summer and heating them in the winter,” said Marcell. “I know one thing we cannot do is increase energy taxes in Pennsylvania. The proposed budget includes a $660 million increase in energy taxes, which will be passed onto those who can least afford it.”

“When energy prices rise, families have less money for food, education, health care, and savings,” she said. “Rising energy prices create a ripple effect starting with higher utility bills, that become higher retail costs, all at a time when we are already plagued by inflation fueled by government overspending.”

“Low-income families are particularly vulnerable to the impact of rising energy costs,” she added.

“The reality is we need a sound, comprehensive energy policy that creates a robust economy and continues growing tens of thousands of family-sustaining jobs,” said Marcell. “Raising energy taxes is antithetical to attracting the jobs working families need and encouraging businesses to come here and thrive.”

Also, Grove said the budget does nothing to tackle the problem of “waste, fraud and abuse” in the state’s benefits programs. He noted 40 percent of DHS claims are fraud, waste, and errors.

“It’s the worst of D.C. politics brought to the Pennsylvania House,” he said.

Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chadds Ford) said, “The House Democrats abandoned the Governor’s budget, which they were previously advancing, and added $1 billion in new spending. They also did so in a way that prevented amendment and ran it straight to the House floor for a vote. It is not a sincere effort and will not be our final, negotiated budget. I will be voting for increased spending for our schools, law enforcement, prosecutors, school safety, a new suicide hotline, and property tax relief.”

House Democratic leaders said: “Today, we took a step forward with a budget that puts people first. It makes additional investments in critical programs and services that House Democrats have long prioritized and includes Republican priorities – all in a fiscally responsible way. It’s a plan that further invests in every school district, including extra support for those with the most need and aging infrastructure. It even puts an additional deposit into our Rainy Day Fund.”

Shapiro applauded his Democratic colleagues’ budget.

“We look forward to continuing the negotiation process with the Senate and finalizing a budget that makes strong investments in education, working families, public safety, and communities – all priorities that we can afford.”

“Gov. Shapiro commends the new House Democratic majority for taking this important step forward and adding to our shared priorities as we work to pass a commonsense budget,” said his press secretary Manuel Bonder. “Now, as this process moves on to the Senate, we look forward to continuing to work with Republicans and Democrats alike to bring people together and deliver a budget that addresses the most pressing issues facing our commonwealth.”

The budget bill will next go to the Senate, which has a Republican majority.

“The spending level of the budget passed by the House raises substantial concerns. The Senate Republican Caucus is committed to working to put in place a responsible spending plan that will help strengthen Pennsylvania now and in future years,” said Kate Flessner, a spokeswoman for the Senate Republican Caucus.

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