2018 Budget

Jeff Roberson / AP

Pennsylvania is going to borrow against its Tobacco Settlement Fund to fill in last year’s deficit and finish this year’s budget

The Wolf administration confirmed Tuesday that it will tap into the stream of money states have received from tobacco companies since the 1990s.

The borrowing will give the commonwealth money to balance its books up front, and will then be paid back over several decades.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority approved the plan Tuesday. However, Budget Secretary Randy Albright noted that it’s not finalized yet.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State lawmakers are running into legal issues over a component of the budget plan they passed last month.

Some $200 million of the plan is slated to be appropriated from a group that insures healthcare providers against malpractice claims.

However, the group has sued to keep that money.

The state established the Joint Underwriting Association in the 1970s, so lawmakers say they have the authority to appropriate its funds as needed.

But the JUA contends its money are private, because it comes from investments and premiums from policyholders.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

Pennsylvania is starting the lengthy process of making far-reaching expansions to its gambling industry.

Among the law’s major provisions are legalization of video gaming terminals—or VGTs—in truck stops, and licensing of 10 new miniature casinos.

Counties can opt not to allow VGTs, and municipalities can do the same for mini-casinos.

State Gaming Control Board Spokesman Doug Harbach said those moves have to happen by December 29 and 31, respectively, but they haven’t heard from anyone yet.

Matt Rourke / AP

With the state budget wrapped up, lawmakers can turn their attention to a few fast approaching deadlines--including the renewal of funding for unemployment compensation.  

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

One of the biggest parts of the budget plan that Governor Tom Wolf has now mostly signed into law is $1.5 billion worth of borrowing.

But Wolf said Monday it’s not yet set in stone where that money will come from.

The legislature’s plan called for borrowing from the Tobacco Settlement Fund—which gets yearly payments from a settlement states made with tobacco companies in the late 1990s.

But while he was waiting for lawmakers to pass it, Wolf came up with his own approach — deciding to borrow the money against future revenue from the state-run liquor industry.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf has signed the majority of the revenue plan passed by the legislature last week —four months past the deadline.

But he hasn’t signed the public school code yet, and in a briefing Monday, appeared to leave open the possibility of vetoing it.

The rest of the revenue package fills a $2.2 billion hole in the $32 billion budget.

Budget Bills Are Ugly, But Wolf Has Little Choice But To Sign

Oct 30, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's House of Representatives had passed an aggressive, bipartisan gambling expansion bill an hour earlier when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's top budget adviser walked by the chamber's Democratic leader in the Capitol's ornate Rotunda.

"Thank you," he told Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny.

It was perhaps the most polite thing said about Pennsylvania's ugly budget process and a Frankenstein-like assortment now sitting on Wolf's desk: The gambling bill, a $140 million tax package and $1.5 billion borrowing measure to bail out the state's finances.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Treasury has authorized a major $1.8 billion loan to keep Pennsylvania's general fund from running out of money.

Matt Rourke / AP

The cash-strapped Pennsylvania state government is getting another loan to pay its bills on time.

Pennsylvania state Treasurer Joe Torsella said Friday he's authorizing a $1.8 billion credit line that must be paid back by April 2.

It comes as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers are patching up a deficit, primarily by borrowing, tapping off-budget programs and expanding casino gambling.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s state House has sent a gambling expansion bill to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk — effectively finishing the budget lawmakers have labored over this entire fiscal year, four months past the due date.

The long, complex measure prompted hours of debate over the course of two days.

It significantly broadens Pennsylvania’s 13-year-old gaming industry.

Gambling in airports and over the internet will now be legal. Truck stops across the commonwealth will be able to install video gaming terminals — or VGTs — and up to 10 new miniature casinos are authorized.

Pennsylvania House Passes Massive Gambling Bill

Oct 26, 2017
Julie Jacobson / AP, file

*UPDATED: Oct. 26, 2017 at 12:48pm

The Pennsylvania House is sending a just-unveiled plan to expand casino-style gambling to truck stops, online portals, airports and 10 new mini-casino sites to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf.

The chamber approved it 109-72 on Thursday, as lawmakers hope to squeeze a couple hundred million more from license fees and gambling losses to help stitch together Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After almost four months of false starts and negotiation breakdowns, the state legislature has passed most of a plan to fund Pennsylvania’s budget—almost entirely through borrowing and internal transfers.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

This week the state Senate is expected to consider a budget proposal that’s already been approved by the House, and leaders say the borrowing-heavy plan might be the only avenue to finding consensus.

But disagreements remain on a key component of the revenue package: how to expand gambling.

Many House members have long wanted to legalize remote video gaming terminals—or VGTs— in bars and taverns. They argue illegal terminals already exist, and should be regulated.

Senate Eyes House Budget Plan That's Short Of What It Wanted

Oct 23, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Amid a four-month budget standoff, the Pennsylvania Senate is returning to the Capitol to confront a House budget-balancing plan that falls well short of what Senate leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf had sought.

Monday's session day could start a long week for senators.

The budget fight largely revolves around the size of a tax increase to help plug Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances. That's pitting Wolf and the Senate against the House Republican majority. The sides are agreeing to borrow more than $1 billion to help backfill the deficit.

Matt Rourke / AP

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.

Matt Rourke / AP

House lawmakers narrowly passed part of a proposal Tuesday night to finish Pennsylvania’s overdue state budget—their first significant action since talks melted down two weeks ago.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House and Senate are back in session after taking time off following the collapse of budget negotiations earlier this month.

There’s no concrete strategy moving forward.

But some lawmakers say they hope opposition to Governor Tom Wolf’s unilateral budget-balancing plan will eventually spur the body into action.

Wolf has announced that he intends to bring the state’s books in line by borrowing against liquor control board revenues, leasing out the state Farm Show complex, and not passing funding for state related universities.

Pennsylvania Explores New Territory In Budget Fight

Oct 16, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances are in new territory, as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf assembles a package to balance the state's budget without involvement from a Republican-controlled Legislature riven by ideological and provincial disputes.

Mel Evans / AP

 State Treasurer Joe Torsella has decided to authorize a five-day, $700 million loan to keep Pennsylvania from missing Medicaid payments while its general fund runs low.

The move is politically fraught.

For two months, Torsella, a Democrat, refused to lend money until the legislature passed a plan that would balance the state's finances.

Now, Governor Tom Wolf is taking unilateral steps to try and bring the three-months-late budget in line. But critics of Torsella and Wolf say not enough has actually changed to justify the shift in position.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Pennsylvania Treasury is extending a five-day, $700 million credit line to tide over the state government's deficit-ridden finances.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that the Treasury is loaning money to cover the commonwealth’s short-term expenses—including upcoming payments to public schools.

That was news to Treasurer Joe Torsella, who said the loan still isn’t authorized and won’t be until Wolf provides more details on how he plans to balance the state budget.

The loan in question has been a point of political tension.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State lawmakers are grappling with the implications of Governor Tom Wolf’s unexpected decision to balance part of the state budget himself by borrowing against the liquor industry.

House and Senate members are currently trying to figure out whether Wolf’s allowed to do that. And meanwhile, the commonwealth’s short-term cash-flow issues still aren’t resolved.

House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said while most of his caucus prefers borrowing $1.2 billion against Liquor Control Board profits over tax increases, they’re still not sold on the idea.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Days after negotiations to balance Pennsylvania’s late budget collapsed completely, lawmakers, the governor, and their staffers are still trading barbs over social media—and in more formal ways, too.

Nearly 80 House Republicans have signed a petition demanding Wolf issue approval letters to businesses for tax credits that go toward scholarships. The money is past-due under state law.

Both the Republicans and Democratic Wolf administration blame the problem on budget discord.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

In the midst of this week’s budget negotiation meltdown, House Republicans have managed to slide a piece of priority legislation through their chamber and on to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s desk.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The latest push to finish Pennsylvania’s late, unbalanced budget has melted down.

After several false starts, talks between House Democrats and Republicans dissolved into fights Wednesday over who’s at fault for the chamber’s inability to find consensus on a tax package.

Daveynin / Flickr

After extensive closed negotiations, a House committee moved a plan to close part of the $2.2 billion gap in Pennsylvania’s overdue budget Tuesday evening.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a week of closed talks between legislative leaders and Governor Tom Wolf, the House and Senate are back in session together for the first time in months.

Leaders say they have a loose budget structure to work from now, though no one has officially agreed to anything.

The House hasn’t yet held official discussions with members about the framework, but the Senate did Monday afternoon.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

GOP leaders say they’re optimistic they’ll have some kind of budget framework to present to members this week.

The House and Senate are both scheduled to convene Monday.

The potential deal comes after a week of closed negotiations between chamber leaders, as well as at least one rare in-person meeting with Governor Tom Wolf.

It’s unclear when or if major votes will happen.

But in a memo sent to GOP members, House Leader Dave Reed said it “might be a good idea to pack for a long week.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A spokesman for Pennsylvania House Republicans says recent talks to resolve the state's three-month-old budget stalemate have been productive, and there could be a breakthrough next week.

Caucus spokesman Steve Miskin said Thursday that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's engagement has been helpful.

He says details are still being worked out, but House GOP leaders hope to have a plan to present to their members next week.

The state Senate is also coming back to session in Harrisburg on Monday, another promising sign.

Keith Srakocic / AP

While Harrisburg is mired in balancing its overdue budget, employees in the state’s Unemployment Compensation program are getting concerned that a planned fix to their funding won’t come on time.

Hundreds of UC employees were laid off last year ago after funding wasn’t renewed over fears the program was ill-managed and cost too much.

It caused mass delays for people trying to claim unemployment benefits.

Pages