Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler, a Lancaster County Republican who rose to the speakership in June, said he will look to remain in that role for the next two-year legislative session.
While results across most 203 state House races are still being tallied, Republicans are on track to retain the majority the party has held for the last decade.
“Assuming we go back into the majority, it would be my intention to run for speaker,” said Cutler, a 45-year-old who was unopposed this week for an eighth two-year term representing most of southern Lancaster County in Harrisburg.
Cutler served less than two years as majority leader before ascending to the chamber's top role upon the resignation of Mike Turzai in June. The House Speaker plays a key role in all major policy negotiations with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and as well as the Republican-controlled state Senate.
Cutler said he planned to send a letter to Republican colleagues Friday afternoon announcing his intention to run for speaker for the next full term, which begins officially in January. Both Republican and Democratic caucuses typically meet to elect their leaders in the weeks after an election, and it wasn’t immediately clear if any other Republicans would run against Cutler.
As results were still coming in Friday morning, Republicans had flipped at least two House seats -- unseating a freshman Democrat in Bucks County and replacing a retiring Democrat in Schuylkill County -- while Democrats had flipped one seat held by a retiring Republican in Montgomery County.
Democrats had hoped to gain a net of nine seats to win the majority for the first time in a decade and had spent millions across mainly suburban seats in the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Lehigh Valley regions.
Cutler said the strong down-ballot Republican result “validates many of the positions and management issues that we use in addressing issues in the Commonwealth.”
High turnout for President Donald Trump in many areas of the state helped the party maintain its majority, but it’s too early to tell, he said, how exactly those presidential results compare to the state House results.
“I still think it comes down to having good candidates and quality issues and running good races,” he said.
Cutler said the estimated $5 billion budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would be first on legislators’ agenda as they return to work in Harrisburg this month. There are some “financial cliffs” coming as well with transportation funding and a still-massive public pension liability, and it will require lawmakers to take a long-term economic outlook to solve the problems, he said.
“You’re not going to tax your way out of it,” Cutler said. “You've got to grow your way out of that and grow your economy.”
In terms of short-term fixes for that $5 billion deficit this year, however, Cutler said “meeting the basic needs will absolutely be the first goal,” but conversations will include re-appropriating money from “some programs that aren’t working.”