The PA house caucuses voted on key leadership positions, with both parties opting to largely maintain the status quo after an historic election. The vote had been moved up a week, purportedly to save tax dollars by not requiring the general assembly to reconvene next week solely for caucus votes.
In the day’s biggest news, the Republican caucus voted in York County Rep. Stan Saylor as House Appropriations chair. The long-serving Delaware County Rep. Bill Adolph had retired late last year, vacating a three-term chairmanship over a powerful committee that approves bills related to state spending, in conjunction with its Senate counterpart.
"I'm honored my colleagues elected me," Saylor said. "As a Republican, one of my goals as Appropriations chair is to have a lot more impact from our rank-and-file...I want ideas."
Saylor has been a major advocate for property tax relief, backing a House bill to lower residential rates by as much as 70 percent by increasing the personal income tax rate. He promised to raise the issue as chair, while cutting government waste.
"A big part of next year's budget is going to be the issue of property tax. I do think its something we have to grapple with," he said. "We have to think about the impact of tax increases on working families struggling to make their mortage payment or pay for daycare."
He ran for the chair against Bucks County Rep. Scott Petri. Some Harrisburg insiders said the vote was indicative of the long-running erosion of Republican power in Southeastern PA. Saylor is a longtime critic of what he has perceived as Philadelphia’s undue influence over Harrisburg politics.
“It’s about regionalization,” said GOP consultant Ray Zaborney, ahead of the leadership vote. “The Southeast is losing Adolph and they wanted to keep a seat at the table.”
Saylor said he had never been critical of the Southeast, just "wasteful spending in Philadelphia" and its school district's "failure to perform."
Others wondered how a tax-averse Appropriations chair would fare in looming budget negotiations. The state Rep said he would focus on cutting "wasteful government programs."
Meanwhile, in their only contested leadership vote, Democrats kept on Rep. Mike Sturla as policy chair, over MontCo Rep. Madeleine Dean.
Despite rumbling on both sides of the aisle about leadership changes at the top of the caucuses, it was not to be.
Democrats easily re-elected Minority leader Rep. Frank Dermody, while Republicans retained Majority leader Dave Reed – Majority whip Rep. Brian Cutler had reportedly eyed that spot, with support from Speaker Mike Turzai, to no avail.
GOP sources said the blowout election had dampened calls for any challenges to Turzai's reign. Ironically, many wounded Dems said a party reeling from election losses shouldn’t change horses in midstream.
Update: Rep. Marcy Toepel and Rep. Kurt Masser were also selected to serve as Caucus chair and administrator, respectively.