The beginning of 2023 ushered in a new day for Pennsylvania Democrats. The party had a new governor and, for the first time in over a decade, a one-seat majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
However, it was immediately clear that Democrats in Harrisburg are far more concerned with holding onto power at all costs rather than governing. Their constant political posturing has led to staggering gridlock, mistrust, and absolute chaos.
At the beginning of the year, an insecure Democrat leadership team totally shut down the state House for months because its majority was not cemented due to three vacancies in its caucus. Crucial time was lost leading up to the governor’s budget address because they refused to work with House Republicans. Since then, the Democrat majority has held the fewest number of voting session days in recent memory, creating one of the least productive legislative years in history.
In fact, as of this writing, Pennsylvania still does not have a completed budget thanks to a tantrum from House Democrats and a lack of leadership from Gov. Josh Shapiro. Shapiro came to a budget agreement with the state Senate centered on scholarships for children in failing schools. But apparently helping children in bad schools is unacceptable to House Democrats and their political allies, so they blew the compromise up.
This led to Shapiro weakly going back on his word, creating a costly budget impasse that has yet to be solved. The result is total mistrust among the branches of government and a lack of legislative direction that would enable hundreds of millions in funding to flow to programs and entities that sorely need it.
Speaking of the governor, Shapiro made his bones on the campaign trail by touting his commitment to responsible government and transparency. Apparently, he has totally abandoned this mantra. This may be due to Shapiro focusing his attention on his Secretary of Legislative Affairs Mike Vereb, who recently resigned in disgrace amidst a workplace sexual harassment scandal.
Vereb and Shapiro go way back and by now it is apparent that the governor kept this scandal under wraps for months, only acting after the media finally began asking questions. Even now, Shapiro has not been up front about the timeline of events and how the situation was handled internally. His lack of accountability should speak volumes to the victims for whom Shapiro has always claimed to protect. Perhaps the governor is too worried about his image and political future to stand up for the women on his staff.
If one sexual harassment scandal isn’t enough, let’s not forget about Democrat State Rep. Mike Zabel. Once again, House Democratic leadership was long aware that Zabel had been accused of assaulting a woman, yet no action was taken. When the charge was finally made public, numerous other women came forward to reveal similar experiences with the representative.
It is horrendous to think that if House Democrats would have acted Rep. Zabel may not have been able to assault other women. Apparently, they were more concerned with protecting their slim majority in the House.
Finally, irresponsible Democrat leadership goes beyond the Capitol building. This summer, it came to light that the executive director of the House Democrats’ campaign arm in Pennsylvania pocketed over $365,000 in reimbursements since 2021. After calls for an investigation, it was revealed that the committee could not even produce receipts for nearly $150,000 of those expenses, a blatant campaign finance violation that borderlines on corruption. Yet, we have not heard a peep on the matter from either the governor or his former aide who is now the attorney general.
With all that said, one thing is clear. Democrats are only concerned with holding onto power at all costs. From covering up scandals to shutting down state government, Democrats have done whatever it takes to put their political interests over the people of Pennsylvania.
We must do better in Harrisburg. People across the Commonwealth are struggling everyday with skyrocketing costs, economic uncertainty, and rising crime. There is simply no time to waste playing political games. Pennsylvania Democrats need to clean up their act or step aside and let the adults get to work.
O’Neal represents the 48th Legislative District in Washington County and serves as the Republican Whip.