Independent Fiscal Office

Matt Rourke / AP

It’s almost time for lawmakers to start work on the state budget.

But after several cycles of tortuous negotiations made more difficult by persistent revenue shortfalls, it looks like this year might be smoother sailing.

Thanks to last year’s weak revenue collections, lawmakers were faced with a nearly $1.5 billion hole.

They finally filled it through—mostly—borrowing. But it took until late October, three months past the deadline.

This year, the shortfall is much smaller.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The commonwealth’s Independent Fiscal Office has released its yearly assessment of Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal.

It reports that most of the revenue estimates check out. That is, if Wolf can figure out how to get his ideas past the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

The Democratic governor’s fourth budget proposal—and the final one of his first term—brings back a lot of the ideas he’s been trying unsuccessfully to pass for his entire tenure.

Key components are a natural gas severance tax, a minimum wage increase to $12 an hour, and a corporate tax overhaul.

Emily Previti / Keystone Crossroads

After a year marked by lower-than expected income and intractable budget problems, Pennsylvania’s finances appear to be on an upswing. 

Matt Rourke / AP

A rating agency has deemed Pennsylvania’s credit stable.

That’s an improvement from several months ago, when the commonwealth received a downgrade from a different agency in the midst of an extended budget impasse.

But it doesn’t mean the fiscal woes are over.

Even though Fitch Ratings’ has taken Pennsylvania off its Rating Watch Negative list, it still has a negative outlook. 

Fitch analyst Eric Kim said while the commonwealth has a healthy amount of fiscal flexibility, is has almost no reserves, and recent budgets have included little recurring revenue.

House Panel Rebrands Marcellus 'Impact Fee,' Now Calling It 'Severance Tax'

Sep 11, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

What’s in a name?

A lot, apparently, when it comes to Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State budgets have two basic parts: one outlines how much government will spend on its programs and expenses, and the other details where lawmakers are getting the money to pay for it.

Last year, the GOP-controlled legislature compromised on a $31.5 billion spending plan, and then took two more weeks to come up with a revenue framework to fit it.

Democratic Governor Tom Wolf let it become law without his signature, declaring at the time that “our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the commonwealth’s structural budget deficit.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

One of the more contentious parts of Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal is a bid to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour.

It’s currently $7.25—the lowest the federal government allows.

AP Photo/Marc Levy

The Independent Fiscal Office was created five years ago to provide number-crunching with no spin, but it isn't getting the last word in the state budget debate.

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has vigorously disputed the IFO finding that the governor's spending plan would stick even the poorest Pennsylvanians with a tax increase.

Legislation Could Eliminate School Property Tax

Aug 14, 2013
Tim Lambert / WITF

After a year of review, Pennsylvania House Representative Jim Cox reintroduced House Bill 76 outlining the benefits of eliminating the school property tax in the Commonwealth. With 91 co-sponsors in the House and 22 in the Senate, Rep. Cox is confident the bill will appeal to both legislators and tax-payers. Matthew Knittel, director of the Independent Fiscal Office, has reviewed versions of the bill and says from a revenue perspective, the bill could be made to work in certain parts of the state.

A new study finds expanding Medicaid eligibility in Pennsylvania would yield billions of dollars in federal funding and result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state tax revenue over the next eight years.

The Independent Fiscal Office report says the expansion would mean big cost-savings for the commonwealth — due largely to the number of people whose medical coverage would be picked up by the feds.

But baked into the study are several assumptions necessary for completing a fiscal analysis, said IFO director Matthew Knittel.