Friday, September 22, 2017

Senate Rejects House Republican Budget 43-7, House Rs Say Senate Should Still OK Their Plan

The Senate Wednesday voted 43 to 7 to soundly reject a House Republican revenue plan to deal with the state’s $2.2 billion deficit using money Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said he was not entirely sure actually existed.
The goal of the vote, Sen. Corman said, was to put the plan-- House Bill 453-- into a House-Senate conference committee with the hope of resolving the significant differences between the revenue plan the Senate passed on July 27 and the plan House Republicans gave to the Senate on September 13.  (Click Here for a refresher on what’s in both plans.)
He said, however, there is no agreement yet on whether the House will vote to form a conference committee on the revenue package.  “They have to take the next step.”
House Republican Caucus spokesperson Steve Miskin confirmed later Wednesday that, as negotiations continue, the House has not made a commitment to call for a conference committee and no action on that front is expected when the House reconvenes Monday.
Sen. Corman said he hopes the House will work with the Senate like they did on pensions and other issues to finish the budget and it would be a step backwards if that was not the case.
He said the Senate could have amended the House plan and sent it back to the House, but that would not resolve the issue.
On taking money from special funds as House Republicans proposed, Sen. Corman said there are constitutional and legal questions with some of the funds, and he is not sure all of the money they identified actually exists.
But at the end of the day using the House Republican plan, Sen. Corman said, would leave the state with a deficit at the end of the year if they depended on the proposed one-time withdrawals.  “It would leave Pennsylvania with a bigger problem.”
He noted it was the responsibility of Senate and House committees to review how the monies in the special funds are spent and he believes they will get more attention in the budget process next year.
He wrapped up his comments by saying he and Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Majority Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, will remain in Harrisburg as long as it takes to get the job done.
The Senate is on a 6-hour call for a return to Harrisburg.  It is not scheduled to be back in voting session until October 16.
The House is scheduled to be in session next week starting Monday.
(Based in part on Periscope app coverage of Sen. Corman’s press availability by PLS Reporter.)
Oct. 1 Deadline
Gov. Wolf Tuesday said he thought he can stave off any further delays in payments or cuts in state funding between now and October 1.  “I can make things for financially,” he told KDKA Radio.
On September 15 Gov. Wolf delayed over $1.7 billion in payments due to managed care organizations and the PA School Employees Retirement System because the state’s checking account had essentially fallen to zero.
The Governor said he has spoken with Senate and House leaders and “They’re willing to let us work through this process.”
Credit Downgrade
Wednesday, as a result of Pennsylvania’s budget stalemate, Standard and Poor’s  downgraded Pennsylvania’s credit rating from AA- to A+ making the state only better than Illinois and New Jersey in credit ratings.
They cited several reasons: failure to close out a revenue package for FY 2017-18 and the State Treasurer’s decision to stop extending an internal line of credit to pay bills.
The downgrade will cost state taxpayers an estimated $50 million or more in borrowing costs this fiscal year.
It all goes back to something House Majority Leader David Reed (R-Indiana) said during the FY 2015-16 budget debacle-- doing a budget is like putting a puzzle together when no one knows what the picture is.
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