During an appearance in Harrisburg on Monday, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler praised Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf for his part in a raft of successful legislation that has passed this session.
But Cutler was not averse to also criticizing the governor over reports that the Wolf administration has overspent its 2019-20 budget by more than $600 million.
Cutler, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, was appearing before the Pennsylvania Press Club’s monthly luncheon to talk about his caucus’s achievements and to answer a few questions from the assembled crowd.
When it comes to getting things done, Cutler said, the 2019-20 session of the Pennsylvania Legislature has been one of the best in recent memory.
“We're passing important bills in both chambers, and we're working together with the governor in the best interests of all Pennsylvanians,” Cutler said. “But the success is not just in the Legislature. Gov. Wolf has signed 135 bills into law, his highest total in the first year of a session since he's taken office. In fact, it's an increase of almost 40 percent compared to last session.
“But more than volume, the issues that we're covering and the bills that we have passed, and that the governor has signed, address major reforms on issues that Pennsylvanians have asked us to take action on,” Cutler added.
When it came to the budget overages, Cutler was much less inclined to praise the governor and his administration.
“Rule number one is when you're in a hole, put down the shovel,” Cutler said. “You know, stop digging. And unfortunately, the governor has had a track record – sometimes much higher than what this one is – but nonetheless, he's got a track record of consistently overspending.”
The Lancaster Republican particularly wondered why the Department of Corrections was running such steep cost overruns at a time when the state’s prison population is declining.
“We have less prisoners, less prisons, and yet we continue to have inordinate amounts of overtime,” he mused. “So that to me, at its root, is a management problem.”
In an attempt to head off questions about his potential to succeed retiring House Speaker Mike Turzai in that role, Cutler early on addressed it, insisting that he and Turzai both were focused on their current roles. But when it still came up in the Q&A portion of the event, he didn’t dismiss the idea.
“I'm focused on my job right now,” Cutler said. “That's what I'm doing. That's what I was elected to do. And if and when that time comes, it's one that I'll certainly entertain.”
– The Center Square