How Soon Will GOP Abandon “Majority of the Majority” Tactic in PA Budget Standoff?

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Marc Levy has the most important read of the PA budget season, on the Republicans’ “majority of the majority” tactic that’s preventing a budget from getting passed.

Simply put, the “majority-of-the-majority” rule means legislation cannot get a floor vote unless most Republican lawmakers support it. And many Republicans, particularly the most conservative, want to see their leaders adhere to that rule this time around, as Wolf pursues what opponents call Pennsylvania’s biggest tax increase in history.

“I absolutely do,” said Rep. Justin Simmons, R-Lehigh. Otherwise, he said, “I would feel like they are selling us out.”

Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, said he thinks his fellow Senate Republicans support the rule and should their leaders not observe it, they “would alienate a lot of people in the caucus.”

That rule, plus much larger and more conservative Republican majorities than Rendell faced 12 years ago, could make it harder for Wolf to win passage of the package of tax increases he wants to finance a record boost in public school aid and wipe out a long-term budget deficit.

In the 2003 tax vote, Democrats cast 90 of the 134 “yes” votes in the House and Senate. A combined 89 Republicans voted “no,” while 44 voted “yes.”

This year, a majority of the majority rule suggests that 77 Republicans will need to sign on, counting two House districts that are likely to seat a Republican in special elections on Aug. 4.

The reason this story is important is because it has major implications for whether the public blames Tom Wolf or the right wing of the Republican Party for the budget stand-off.

There is an inaccurate version of this story that says only that Tom Wolf does not have the votes to pass his priorities in the legislature.

But if the Republican leadership brought Tom Wolf’s proposed severance tax up for an up-or-down vote of the full legislature tomorrow, it would almost certainly pass.

The trouble is that Republican leadership is refusing to let the severance tax get an up-or-down vote of the full legislature, since it does not enjoy majority support within the Republican caucus.

The path to victory in the full legislature involves getting all Democrats plus the suburban southeast and northeast Republicans who ran on their support for a severance tax and restoring school funding cuts.

What the “majority of the majority” tactic (called the Hastert Rule in Washington) does is change the median vote needed to win support for the severance tax from a southeast suburban Republican to a western PA or center state Republican from gas country.

The thing is, we know how this plays out. The tea people have played this game with Obama like a dozen times now and they’ve lost every time.

That’s because Wolf and Obama both enjoy veto power, and Tom Wolf has made clear he’s going to veto any budget that doesn’t deliver on his three big priorities: severance tax, restoring education cuts, and property tax relief.

To override that veto, Republicans need a two-thirds vote of the legislature. As long as Democrats all hang tight, that’s not going to happen.

So, as John Boehner has done many times now, the Republican leadership is going to have to abandon “majority of the majority” and let the budget pass with all Democrats + the more reasonable Republicans.

This entry was posted in Budget, Issues.

10 Responses to How Soon Will GOP Abandon “Majority of the Majority” Tactic in PA Budget Standoff?

  1. Not really sure why you think it is easier for the Democrats to get 51 Republican votes than it is for the Republicans to get 14 Democrats votes to reach a 2/3rds majority. I don’t believe that there are that many Republicans that will consider a shale tax without Wolf giving up Liquor Privatization at a minimum. We’ll see though won’t we?

  2. Dude says:

    I agree with brooks, the math is much easier for the GOP than it is for the Dems. Not to mention, Wolf’s off-season mailers have burned up any goodwill he might have had with the suburban Republicans he needs to win. The GOP wants no new taxes, Liquor Privatization, and Pension Reform. Wolf is unwilling to give in on Liquor or Pensions, so he’s going to have to give in on taxes.

  3. phillydem says:

    The state house has already approved an increase in the base sales tax to 7%. Reed is on record saying booze won’t hold up a budget.

    The Republicans in districts with underfunded schools aren’t going to be able to withstand the pressure Wolf’s putting on them with the ads and mailers. Just the other day Rep Marshall (HD14) had to attend an anti-gas tax rally with Christiana, then show up to meet Wolf practically in his backyard in Big Beaver. This is part of his voter base. They might think twice about voting for him again if he screws over his high school alma mater.

    With oil and gas prices tanking, the drillers are laying off workers left and right. It shows all the GOP claims about jobs the industry is bringing to be nonsense since those jobs will dry up as soon as the market isn’t profitable. So tax the gas that’s already being pumped. It won’t cost 1 job or prevent the drillers from returning if they see big $$$s again.

  4. Part of your statement is illogical. You can’t say that jobs are decreasing because the price of gas is decreasing and then say if the price to get the gas is made even more expensive, lowering the producers margin even further compared to the rest of the market, it won’t have an effect on jobs. However, I do agree that if or when the price goes up more production will occur. Maybe a scaled tax instead of a flat rate is a better overall answer.

    Any jobs in any market dry up when it isn’t profitable, not really a reason not to try to attract business since it all eventually changes.

    While I try to pay attention somethings just get by me. Could you provide a link that shows the House has approved a 7% sales tax. I’m curious how that vote went..

  5. Dude says:

    PhillyDem, I am sorry, but what you said makes no sense at all.

    If the drillers are laying people off, left and right, then a gas tax will make this problem even worse. It will mean less jobs for the state, and make Wolf look horrible. It will also make job growth in the industry slower if the price of gasoline goes up. I really don’t see the benefit there for Wolf at all.

    As far as the pressure the Republicans are facing, I really wouldn’t pin your hopes on them losing. Very few of them are concerned about the potential for that, and Wolf attacking them out of season made them more inclined to fight. As I said before, Wolf needs to pick some places to compromise. He’s never going to get the tax increases he wants with a 60% GOP legislature.

  6. phillydem says:

    Does a severance tax stop drilling in all the other states that have one? Nope. There was a demand for natural gas and in came the drillers. Now the price is low, there’s a glut and out they are going. By your logic, in the state with no severance tax, the energy companies would just keep drilling because it’s cheaper. But that’s not what’s happening. Not taxing the shale gas industry is neither creating nor keeping jobs. The shale isn’t leaving Pennsylvania. When the demand for gas returns, so will the energy companies. That’s supply and demand 101. Having a severance tax won’t matter and won’t stop them.

    Remember fossil fuels aren’t a renewable resource (at least not for millions of years). Once they are gone, they’re gone. Losing revenue by not taxing the industry makes no sense. The state needs to make the money while it can.

    Here’s the link to the sales/income tax plan the House passed in May. From the Tribune-Review, no less:

    I’ll speculate that this will form the basis of a deal. Wolf won’t get the expansion of the sales tax to everything he wants, but an overall increase in the rate and the raise in the PIT he’s asking. He’ll get the severance tax, too.

  7. You are only looking with blinders on. No other state has an “impact fee” and no other state has a 9.9% business tax. Taxation is the sum of all parts not just one item. If they had named the impact fee an extraction tax at the beginning would that mean you have no argument?

  8. Bill Painter says:

    I think the best way to put it is, that the extraction tax is only a small portion of the decision to drill. Companies will drill in Pennsylvania as long as it is sufficiently profitable regardless of the tax.

  9. phillydem says:

    Today’s Sunday Post-Gazette got copies of pretty incriminating documents from lobbyists and campaign fundraisers showing just how in the pocket of drillers and energy companies the state GOPers are. Part 1 is today, Part 2 on Monday.

  10. Pingback: Tom Wolf is Winning the #PABudget Fight the Ed Rendell Way - Keystone Politics