House Budget Plan Is Universally Disliked, But Maybe The Only Option

Oct 19, 2017

The state House has now sent the Senate most of the revenue components necessary to finish Pennsylvania’s budget—more than three months behind schedule.

Senate leaders say they’ll make a good-faith effort to pass them, despite their flaws.

But the budget’s completion might still hinge on whether the chambers can agree on a gambling expansion.

The main component of the House proposal is a $1.5 billion in borrowing against the state’s Tobacco Settlement fund. That money would be paid back with interest over 20 years.

Most of the rest of the $2.2 billion deficit will be filled with one-time fund transfers

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said his chamber is considering the House plan reluctantly.

“The one thing that’s leading us to really try and take a serious look at this and trying to be supportive of this is, it would get us done,” he said. “There’s value in being done.”

He added, “the likelihood of us amending it and sending it back and getting 102 votes for something else, I think, is a long shot at best.”

$265 million from a gaming expansion still has to be negotiated.

Corman said there are still differences between the House and Senate on that point. In particular, the Senate refuses to support legalizing video gaming terminals in bars and taverns, which the House favors. 

“I’m going to make sure we do the best public policy. I’m not going to keep setting policy to try and get to a high number,” he said.

If the legislature can’t agree on enough gaming revenue, the House won’t be able to pass funding for Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, and Temple and Lincoln Universities.