Friday, October 30, 2015

Day 125 Without A State Budget, But The State Still Spent $27 Billion Since July 1

The State Treasurer confirmed Monday state government has spent about $27 billion since July 1, even without an official state budget.  That number is almost equal to the entire General Fund budget in an average year.
The $27 billion includes payroll, certain welfare expenses, special fund expenditures like the state lottery, property tax relief from casino taxes and federal funds.
Senate Republicans Fail In Veto Override
Responding to growing pleas from schools and community groups to release overdue state funding, Senate Republicans Wednesday led an effort to override Gov. Wolf’s veto of an emergency budget passed last month by the General Assembly, but fell 3 votes short.
“Gov. Wolf’s veto of our Emergency Funding Budget last month showed his refusal to put the needs of our schools and social service organizations first,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson).  “Our schools and human service organizations are in critical need of funding to keep their doors open and should not be held hostage during this budget impasse.  As legislators, we have a duty to help our communities and today’s veto override vote of the Emergency Funding legislation took a necessary step to provide vital support while a final budget is negotiated.  As we continue to move forward, we remain committed to ensuring that the final 2015-16 budget respects taxpayers and hardworking families across Pennsylvania.”    
Hours before the vote, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told members of the Senate Democrat Policy Committee that the lack of state funding is having a devastating financial impact on schools throughout Pennsylvania.  
School districts have already borrowed nearly a half-billion dollars – plus interest payments of $15 million – because of the budget impasse, and that number may double by Thanksgiving.
“This hardship is completely unnecessary – the money is there and the state hasn’t stopped collecting taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre).  “Gov. Wolf is holding schools, food banks, rape crisis centers and other social service agencies hostage to his plan for huge tax increases that simply have no support.  We are all frustrated. The reality is that budget issues are going to take additional time to resolve. This is about getting money to the schools and those in our communities who need it. ”
“Pennsylvania cannot afford the Governor’s massive tax hikes and record high spending levels,” Senate Appropriations Committee Majority Chair Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) said. “However, school districts, nonprofits and agencies should not be punished while a final budget agreement continues to be negotiated. We have a responsibility to fund these vital services and this vote today on an emergency budget would have ensured that we meet those obligations to provide for the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
The vote marks the fifth time since June 30th Republican legislators have attempted to have a fiscally responsible budget enacted and keep money flowing to schools and organizations.
House D Tries Tabling All Bills But Budget
Meanwhile in the House Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) made a motion to table all non-budget related legislation until a state budget is put before the House.  It failed.
Gov. Wolf
On a Pittsburgh radio program Thursday, Gov. Wolf said, It’s not time for partisanship.  We really need to recognize the things we have in common-- which is a good Pennsylvania-- and come to some agreement on what we need to do to move Pennsylvania forward.”
Wolf said he was waiting for the General Assembly to come forward with another budget plan.
Next Steps
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said Wednesday following the failure of the veto override, he and other Republicans are working on a two-year budget plan.
Republicans said they are putting together another FY 2015-16 budget they intend to vote on when both the Senate and House return to session during the week of November 16.
The package is likely to include a budget with some limited “revenue enhancements,” along with another pension and liquor privatization proposal.
The intent is to put the package again on the Governor’s desk to see what he will do.
Who’s To Blame?
A Franklin & Marshall poll released Thursday had voters putting the blame for the budget impasse on the Legislature-- 51 percent-- and Gov. Wolf-- 32 percent.  Fully 62 percent of those survey said Pennsylvania was heading in the wrong direction.
Session Schedule
Both the Senate and House do not have voting session next week due to the November 3 election.
The Senate recessed until November 16.  It now has only six more voting days scheduled for this calendar year, although more can be added if needed-- November 16, 17, 18 and December 7, 8, 9.
The House is scheduled to come back to voting session on November 9 and 10.  It is scheduled to be in voting session November 17, 18, 23, 24 and December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16.
(Budget Pumpkin: Eric Heisler, WHTM-TV photojournalist.)

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