There is a time and place for politics, but now is the time to govern.
Recently, a special interest group out of Washington, D.C., America Works USA, started airing television commercials and sending out statewide mailers in a blatant attempt to politicize the budget process in Harrisburg. However, I believe this approach is hindering the negotiation of a budget compromise in good faith and in a timely manner.
American Works USA is a special interest group affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association located in Washington, D.C. Similar to a Super-PAC, America Works USA has no disclosure requirement, helping to push partisan political agendas for its donors. In politics, this has become more commonly known as “dark money.” At a critical time when budget negotiations should be reaching some form of conclusion, both side have left the negotiating table and have fled to spending “dark money” in the media to push partisan messages that demonize opposing sides. We shouldn’t be surprised to see this out of Washington, D.C. We are used to it, but we should not be following the same path in Harrisburg.
No one is focusing on the major agreements we have already reached. The budget proposal Gov. Tom Wolf recently vetoed was actually a compromise. Roughly two-thirds of the lines which Wolf vetoed — 274 out of 401 lines — matched or exceeded what the governor had originally proposed. Don’t get me wrong, there are still major issues lingering out there, including public pension reform, property taxes, education funding, liquor privatization, and a natural gas extraction tax, that need to be agreed upon before we can finish the final product. But instead of talking through the issues, we have resorted to an extension of the political campaign, delaying true negotiations and eroding public trust.
Let me say this. I personally like Gov. Wolf, and I think he is a well-intentioned individual. I think the members of the General Assembly and Senate are also well-intentioned, coming from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, which makes building a consensus a difficult task. However, the steps taken recently by this Washington, D.C. special interest group have pushed us further apart by distorting and spinning the truth, and burning bridges instead of building them.
I will not go out and demonize those sitting at the negotiation table. It’s not the way I believe in doing business. We all have agreements and disagreements. It is what makes us human to have opinions of our own; however, this “dark money” demonization of the “other party” needs to stop. Neither party can sustain it, nor can the people of Pennsylvania. Our country is sick of this Washington style of politics and so is our state.
It is time to return to the negotiating table, leave the petty politics behind, and the put the spin doctors out of practice. There’s a time and a place for politics, but now is not the time.
State Rep .Aaron Kaufer serves the 120th Legislative District in the state House of Representatives.