The sparring continues in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, where Democrats are angry over Republicans transferring money from an account controlled by the majority party even as the two sides fight over who is in control.
On Tuesday, Democrats accused Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) of shifting $51.4 million to an account he controls after he learned of November’s election results.
The current House makeup is 102 Republicans, 99 Democrats, and three vacancies created by the death or departure of Democratic members. Last week, Rep. Johanna McClinton (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) was sworn in and declared herself Majority Leader. A few days later, Cutler did the same.
On Friday, Cutler filed suit in Commonwealth Court asking for an injunction against McClinton’s attempt to ascend to House leadership, and to block her call for special elections to fill the vacant seats on Feb. 7. That lawsuit remains pending, but the political battles continue.
“The Republican leader’s draining of an exceptionally large amount of operational funds of the General Assembly and the subsequent quiet transfer to accounts only within his control as minority leader before relinquishing the Speakership is meant to be an intentional setback for the House Democratic Caucus, and in turn the body as a whole,” said Nicole Reigelman, spokeswoman for the Democrats. “This unprecedented action leaves the new speaker with no reserves and a limited operating budget for this fiscal year. Through the authority granted to him by the membership of the House when they elected him as Speaker, Rep. Cutler took this irresponsible action only after learning the results of the November election.”
Reigelman admitted Cutler’s actions were lawful.
Cutler fired back.
“Democrats are the party of entitlements. They believe they are entitled to the Speaker’s office, but they are not. They believe they are entitled to money specifically appropriated to Republicans, but they are not. They are entitled to try and create a distraction from the disaster of their self-created legislative minority, and that’s all this is,” said Cutler.
“Here are the facts: These transfers are typical, and the amounts left in these accounts are higher than what Democrats left when they held these positions. The money being referenced reflects amounts appropriated specifically to Republican leadership offices as part (of the) budget negotiations individually agreed to by both Republicans and Democrats and represents prior year lapsed funds available due to sound fiscal management on behalf of past Republican Speakers, including when I held the Speakership and reduced the office’s budget by three percent.
“Despite this money being specifically appropriated to Republican offices, Republican leaders have been generous in the past, using these funds to help with requests from Democrats like upgrading the security at their district offices,” said Cutler. “Much like we will do in the upcoming session with the existence of a generous budget surplus and reserves created by Republican financial management, House Republicans will safeguard taxpayer assets and continue to be stewards of taxpayer dollars as Democrats have spent the last twelve years announcing their plans to empty the cupboards of taxpayer resources on extremist ideas.”