Pennsylvania's Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, offered up some tough talk for the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania legislature in his second budget address, scarcely mentioning the details of his proposed $33.3 billion plan.
"Usually this speech is an opportunity to lay out an ambitious agenda for the year ahead," Wolf said. "But I can't give that speech. Not under these circumstances."
Wolf's proposal calls for $2.7 billion in new and higher taxes to close a budget gap and funnel more money into education, human services, and mandated spending.
But the governor didn't focus on that in his 25-minute speech to the legislature.
Instead, he described the dire financial position that he says the state will be in if his proposals aren't approved. Pennsylvania faces a nearly $2 billion deficit, according to the state's Independent Fiscal Office.
"It's a time bomb," said Wolf, "and it's ticking away, right now, even as I speak. If it explodes, the people in this chamber, if you allow it to explode, then Pennsylvania will experience a fiscal catastrophe the likes of which we have never seen."
Wolf described the consequences of austerity: teacher layoffs, human services program cuts, and higher school property taxes. He offered his own budget proposal as a contrast.
The plan would increase funding for K-12 schools and higher education. It would also put more money toward county human services and programs for people with intellectual disabilities. But the administration says most of the new spending is in mandated costs — pensions, health care, human services, and state prisons.