Saturday, December 19, 2015

Updated: House Again Throws Wrench Into Budget Action, Next Steps Uncertain

Resolving the state budget hit yet another bump in the road Saturday when the House failed to pass a pension reform bill-- Senate Bill 1071 (Browne-R-Lehigh), a key part of the “agreed-to” budget framework, by a wide margin-- 52 to 149.
Pointing to that failure, House Majority Leader David Reed (R-Indiana) immediately announced the House would consider a stopgap budget bill when the House reconvenes.
A few minutes after that, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) told reporters his caucus will not accept a stopgap budget and it is now up to the House Republicans to come up with a 12-month budget without any new revenues.
Sen. Corman added, any new taxes are dead without pension reform.
Gov. Tom Wolf agreed saying: “Let me be clear. A stopgap is not the answer. We need a full year budget.  Let’s get back to work. All of us. Let’s get this done now.
“This is not over. We still need a budget. And we need it now. The Senate Republicans led on this – but it was a bipartisan effort. They delivered a budget –full year budget – that made wise investments in our schools and that was truly balanced.
“We cannot slide back on our commitment to our schools. We cannot slide back on our commitment to a truly balanced budget. We cannot slide back on our commitment to a full year budget,” Wolf added.
Earlier, it seemed like things were moving along relatively according to plan.
The House nonconcurred in the Tax Code bill-- House Bill 1198 (Dunbar-R- Westmoreland)-- and the Senate followed closely by insisting on its amendments, setting up a Senate-House conference committee on the taxes needed to fund the $30.8 billion “agreed-to” General Fund budget.
Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) did attempt to amend the bill to adopt a 3.2 percent severance tax on natural gas on top of the existing drilling impact fee, but could not as a result of a procedural vote.
Of course, Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware), Majority Chair House Appropriations Committee, did tell PA Legislative Services after the Committee vote: "I don't think anyone really knows what the tax package is going to be."
The first hint of trouble was when House Democrats voted against the pension bill coming out of the House Appropriations Committee saying the bill was going to do nothing to reduce the unfunded debt in the state and school employee pension funds.
The bill was reported out in a party-line vote of 22 to 15.  Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), Minority Chair of the Committee, said they never agreed to have pension reform as part of the “agreed-to” budget framework.
Rep. Adolph (R-Delaware) said the pension bill will make important reforms and noted Gov. Wolf had promised to sign it into law.
Click Here for an analysis of the pension bill by House Democrats.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is also available.
There were no other votes in the House after the pension bill failed.
The other budget-related bills-- the Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 1327; the Liquor privatization bill- House Bill 1690; and the Education Code changes-- House Bill 530-- all remain in the House Rules Committee.
Voting Schedule (Updated)
House just added December 21 (non-voting), 22, 23 as voting days, formally adjourns to the call of the Chair (not to a date certain).  The Senate is on a 6-hour call (not to a date certain).
Will House Republicans try to move a stopgap budget bill in the face of opposition from the Senate and Governor?
Will they put together their own 12-month budget with, or without, new sources of revenue?
Or, will they come back to the negotiating table and try to work something out?
Stay tuned! …..
PLS: Markosek Says House Dems Never Agreed With Pension Bill
Swift: Caucus Power Thrives In Budget Impasse
Editorial: Impasse Proves Shake-Up Needed

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