GOP lawmaker wanted to balance the budget with 'more gambling and booze'


Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai's fiscal recklessness is extreme even for his own party.

Republican Rep. Mike Turzai's tenure as speaker of the House in Pennsylvania has been marked by fiscal extremism. In fact, according to the Associated Press, "budgets he has helped broker have drawn six credit downgrades going back to 2012, leaving Pennsylvania's credit rating in the basement."

His uncompromising position against any tax increase whatsoever led to bizarre proposals to balance the budget, which sometimes led to well-deserved criticism.

"He thinks more gambling and booze is the answer," wrote the editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer, chastising Turzai for relying on corner store gambling and more liquor sales to balance the budget.

The editorial board continued:

Turzai has derailed bipartisan negotiations to balance the state budget, leaving even some members of his caucus confused. The Allegheny County legislator insists that the $32 billion budget passed in June can be balanced without raising taxes. But, like the repugnant Republican ideas to replace Obamacare, his proposals don't stand up to scrutiny.

In the end, other legislators helped beat back some of the more extreme positions of Turzai.

The year 2017 wasn't Turzai's first instance of derailing the state budget process. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, in late 2015, "Mr. Turzai was widely blamed for blowing up budget talks two days before Christmas, further prolonging an impasse that left counties, schools and social service nonprofits in the lurch."

Rather than focus on what is best for the state, Turzai seems inordinately focused on his own ambitions. As soon as the 2017 budget standoff concluded (which included borrowing $1.5 billion to plug the deficit), Turzai announced his bid to be governor.

He dropped out less than three months later, after failing to earn the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

"Representative Mike Turzai's withdrawal from the race for governor comes as no surprise, as he could not instill confidence, even in members of his own party," Emily Skopov, Truzai's Democratic opponent, said in a statement to the Pittsburgh City Paper. "Republicans across Pennsylvania know that Turzai’s failed speakership has harmed our Commonwealth and led to more gridlock, debt and credit downgrades."

Turzai easily won re-election in 2016, but is now facing a tough race against Skopov. Recent polls show just a few points difference between them in a year where Democratic enthusiasm is running high across the country.