Friday, November 3, 2017

Gov. Wolf Signs Bills Implementing $31.9 Billion Budget, With Environmental Riders

Gov. Tom Wolf Monday signed the bills needed to generate or borrow the revenue to fund the $31.9 billion General Fund budget.  The bills include--
-- Fiscal Code: House Bill 674 (sponsor withdrew) WITH $300 million in fund transfers, environmental riders.  Click Here for House Fiscal Note and summary.
-- Administrative Code: House Bill 118 (Kaufer-R-Luzerne)-- WITH environmental riders.  Click Here for Senate Fiscal Note and summary.
-- Tax Code: House Bill 542 (Thomas-D- Philadelphia)-- with NO environmental riders. Click Here for a House Fiscal Note and summary.
Click Here for a summary of environmental riders-- bad and good-- and other provisions.
Will Wolf Borrow Double The Money?
One of the issues Gov. Wolf was coy about this week was whether he would go ahead with his plan to borrow $1.25 billion by securitizing revenues from the Liquor Control Board AND the $1.5 billion the Senate and House included in the budget bills securitized by Tobacco Settlement monies.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
October Revenues Below 2016
The Independent Fiscal Office Wednesday reported state revenues for October were $59 million below revenues in October 2016, but only $9.6 million below the IFO estimates year-to-date.
The IFO tax revenues coming in were $27.4 million below estimate so far and nontax revenues coming in at $17.8 million above estimate.
With legislators relying on stronger than usual revenues to help balance their very shaky budget house of cards, this was not especially welcome news.
November 7 Election
There are two big statewide issues on the November 7 election ballot-- the races for statewide appellate courts and a referendum on property taxes.
For the environmental community, the appellate court races are particularly important because it makes a real difference who sits on those court benches these days.
The property tax referendum is important because it will lay the groundwork for shifting local taxes away from property tax to personal taxes, at the very least for residential properties.
What’s Next?
Before, during and after the November 7 election the political folks will be busy trying to find meaning in the results.
Meanwhile, the House and Senate were both supposed to return to voting session on November 13, but the House decided to bag that week and will not be back until November 20.
Issues hanging fire include a vote that is expected/promised in the House on a natural gas severance tax wanted by Gov. Wolf, but that is not part of the budget agreement.
Click Here for a list of GOOD environmental bills the Senate and House could work on, several of which have moved so far.
The House has 12 voting days scheduled in November and December and the Senate has 9, but they both are set to adjourn on December 20 for the year.
With many members wrung out by the 4 month long budget battles, we’ll see how much stamina they have to settle other issues.
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