An annual commonwealth tradition may take a backseat to state budget negotiations.
Every December, the state’s top politicians head to New York City to see and be seen at a long weekend of fundraisers, parties and one swanky gala collectively referred to as Pennsylvania Society. But some are already talking about skipping the trip if the state doesn’t have a budget by the date of the main event on December 12.
“There’s no way we should be going to New York City and going and celebrating Pennsylvania Society week unless we have a budget done,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny). “I mean, I’ve been someone who’s gone there many years, (but) I will not be there unless we have this budget completely resolved.”
“It would look like what it is – out of touch with where Pennsylvanians are,” said Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia). “You’re going to a big old party in New York City and schools are closing.”
School districts across the state are using loans to stay open while their state funding is tied up in Harrisburg, and while some have warned that they might have to close, no school has shut down at this point.
A spokeswoman for Senate Republicans said few members have voiced concern about the budget impasse continuing through December. But House Republicans appear to be willing to keep their December party plans in pencil.
“If we don’t have a budget by December, I’m sure members will evaluate whether to go,” said Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House GOP. He said he thinks Democrats are simply trying to deflect attention from their own votes to hold up a short-term spending package.
The hand-wringing over bad optics isn’t affecting the planning surrounding the Pennsylvania Society dinner that anchors the weekend’s festivities.
“Ticket sales are about the same as they have been every year at this time,” said the membership organization’s executive director Carol Fitzgerald. “We always have a full house at the Pennsylvania Society dinner... our society unites all Pennsylvanians.”