PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Governor Tom Wolf pressed the flesh with North Hills school officials as he worked to distinguish his state budget proposal from the Republican budget he vetoed.
"It's a real choice and it has to be made by all of us," said the governor.
Wolf says the choice is between the Republican status quo of the last four years or increased funding for public schools paid by a natural gas drilling tax coupled with school property tax reform.
"We have to have a fair way to fund education. Pennsylvania is at the bottom or near the bottom in terms of state funding of public education."
Wolf said the Republican budget was full of gimmicks that didn't add up and have led to credit down-grades.
Recalling his own business experience, Wolf added, "When I took a budget to my bank, they would take a real hard look at it."
"If I had taken a budget that looked like the state budget we have this year that was presented to me from the other side -- if I had taken that to my bank when I was in business, they would have laughed me out of the office."
The governor can hold all the press events that he wants, but it won't make much of a difference in Harrisburg if most of the public has no clue what this budget dispute is really all about.
"I don't even know what the issue is," said Greg Zarecky of Avalon.
"I don't follow that as closely as I should," added Mary Turner of Bellevue.
"I'm really ignorant on this," said Thomas Pegher of West View.
"Okay, let me be honest. I really don't know what you're talking about," noted Stacey Arnold of Reserve Twp.
The governor recognizes citizens are not to blame for not knowing, which is why he's traveling the state to pitch this message.
"You can keep doing what we've been doing and that hasn't worked -- the budgets that don't add up, not investing in education, having too high a reliance on the property taxes, letting the oil and gas industry not have a severance tax -- that's what we've been doing," said Wolf.
"And I think we can look at that and say, how's that worked for you.
"We've underfunded education, we have played games with the budget, we have done things the wrong way, we cannot keep doing that, we've got to stop it."
Wolf said it was time for Pennsylvanians to hold their legislators accountable for not moving in a new direction.
"I want to make sure that people understand what's going on in Harrisburg because I think part of the reason we have what we have and where we are is because people have sort of given legislators a free ride, a free pass," said Wolf in response to questions from political editor Jon Delano.
Many people don't like the stalemate but are not sure what this impasse is all about.
"I'm not happy about it but I'm not as on it on the issue as I should be," said Mary Turner of Bellevue.
That's a common refrain.
So who's to blame for this budget mess in Harrisburg.
People on the street were not ready to assign blame to one side over the other.
"I blame both sides because I believe they should be able to work out their differences, and I don't see that. They all are very strident," said Dan Cook of Shaler.
"I understand the legislature is mostly Republican and he's [the governor] a Democrat so I would imagine that's the problem," opined Barbara Zawacki of New Sewiickley Twp.
But a state budget is constitutionally required, and both sides need to find common ground.
"There's a real lack of a want to compromise. Compromise seems to be a dirty word now. And just isn't happening. So I think that's the problem," noted Pat Cook of Shaler.
Wolf says he didn't blame anyone for the impasse -- but wants local residents involved.
"Voters here have a lot of power to influence the people in Harrisburg, and I'm trying to get them to use that influence," said Wolf.
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