The PA Republicans are relying on Democrats to provide the votes for a tax increase on natural gas production, and bail them out of the budget mess they got themselves into by passing unpaid-for business tax cuts.
If Democrats make it clear they won’t provide the votes, severance tax or not, because of other harsh cuts in there, then Republicans are going to have to find the votes for the inevitable tax increase solely within the Republican caucus, or else pass a horrible all-cuts budget right before, or maybe even after, the November election – a situation that would find the full weight of media shame (“late budget!”) bearing down on the GOP right in the lead-up to the election.
It would step all over any of the weak positive messages they’re selling, and it would elevate Tom Wolf’s appeal as an outsider non-politician, along with the state Senate Democratic slate he’s running with in his new coordinated campaign.
An article out this morning by Louis Jacobson in Governing drives home why a party-line vote – and the ensuing GOP freak-out – is so critical this year. Unless Dems do something to make the whole Republican Party look unfit to govern the state, not just Tom Corbett, they’re not going to win the three seats they need to take the majority in the state Senate. They need to make a big play, and time is running out.
The budget is the perfect platform for this. The budget is where the parties have to put their cards on the table and show voters what their true priorities are, and a party-line vote against the Republican budget is the only tool left to remind voters why they hate being governed by Republicans.
Senate: Projected Likely R; Current 27-23 R
House: Projected Likely R; Current 111-92 R
Republican Tom Corbett is the most vulnerable incumbent governor in the country, but the GOP’s edge in the legislature seems reasonably solid. In the Senate, the Democrats would only need to flip three seats to take control of a chamber the GOP has long held, but the lineup of seats being contested is favorable to the Republicans. Meanwhile, in the House, the margin is wider, giving Republicans some room for error. If Corbett’s re-election bid begins to be a down-ballot drag for the GOP, one or both of these chambers could shift to vulnerable. But there’s no sign of that yet.