Pennsylvania Budget

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The last month of the fiscal year was a decent one for Pennsylvania, revenue-wise, with returns coming in slightly higher than expected. But it comes at the end of a year of unexpectedly dismal earnings.

The commonwealth ended 2016-17 with its revenues over a billion dollars below projections. Its expectations for the new fiscal year are more modest.

Pennsylvania Budget Talks Drag Into Day 5 Of Fiscal Year

Jul 5, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A top Pennsylvania senator says compromise legislation to expand casino-style gambling is forthcoming as a stalemate enters its fifth day over paying for a $32 billion budget package.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said Wednesday that gambling legislation is a step toward raising $2.2 billion to fill a deficit. The Capitol is quiet this week as top lawmakers talk privately outside the Capitol.

Scarnati and the Legislature's other Republican leaders say they're considering borrowing most of the money.

Matt Rourke / AP

You can tell it’s budget week in Pennsylvania because, on any given day, you’ll find the Capitol packed with lobbyists and advocates from around the commonwealth, pushing for a piece of the pie.

They mill around the rotunda, waiting for news from lawmakers deliberating in chambers upstairs.

This year, there’s been precious little information getting out.

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.”

Pennsylvania Budget Work Likely To Drag Into New Fiscal Year

Jun 28, 2017
Screengrab from Senatorcorman.com

A top Republican state senator says it's looking more like Pennsylvania's budget package won't be finished by the start of the new fiscal year in three days as lawmakers grapple with the state's biggest cash shortfall since the recession.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Wednesday that the only agreement with House GOP leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is on a spending figure, a number around $31.9 billion. That's about $600 million more than this year's budget figure, including money necessary to balance this year's books.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

State lawmakers have made no secret of the fact that next fiscal year’s state budget, which is due Friday, will be a hard one to enact.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania lawmakers are returning to the Capitol with five days to pass an on-time budget and no firm agreement on how to address state government's biggest cash shortfall since the recession.

Leaders of the House and Senate GOP majorities were expected to brief rank-and-file Republicans on Monday after spending the weekend in closed-door negotiations.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

As GOP leaders search high and low for more than $2 billion to patch the commonwealth’s budget gaps, one state senator is trying to tempt his colleagues with revenue projections from one of his longtime pet issues—recreational marijuana.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Republican majority leaders of Pennsylvania’s House and Senate say they’re determined to put together a budget without raising taxes.

That means making up this year’s $1.5 billion shortfall, plus accounting for a roughly $3 billion structural deficit.

To get it done, the final plan is likely to involve significant borrowing.

One option under consideration would involve using an asset as collateral to get a loan, which would be paid off over 25 years or so.

Gov. Tom Wolf / 90.5 WESA

With a little over two weeks until the state budget is due, House and Senate Republicans have been holding closed meetings to hash out details.

Few concrete plans are available, but GOP leaders say they’re on roughly the same page on spending.

A few months ago House Republicans released their budget proposal, which would spend about $800 million less than Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s blueprint and not raise taxes.

The Senate’s GOP majority hasn’t released its own plan yet, and it’s unclear if they will.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Pennsylvania's state treasurer and auditor general are warning lawmakers that the state government's worsening long-term deficit may require it to borrow money from an outside lender to prop up routine budgeted operations.

Wednesday's letter to lawmakers says the state may need to borrow as much as $3 billion while its main bank account has a negative balance for eight months between July and next April.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania law mandates school districts submit preliminary budgets by the last day of May, and several Superintendents across the state used Wednesday’s milestone to call for more financial support from the state.

“Without increased state funding we will, at some point, loose the ability to provide the same level of education that we have,” Gary Peiffer, Carlynton School District Superintendent, said.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health Wednesday shows the backlog of untested rape kits is shrinking, but is still far from gone.

The report found there are 3,217 rape kits in the state waiting to be processed. Of those, 1,214 were more than a year old, which the state defines as backlogged.

Pennsylvania Sees Biggest Shortfall Since Recession

May 2, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania is heading into the 2017 budget season with its biggest revenue shortfall since the recession.

The state Department of Revenue is reporting that it has a shortfall in excess of $1 billion, now 10 months into the fiscal year. That's more than 4 percent, a bigger margin than at any point since 2010.

It leaves budget makers with an even bigger budget gap than expected with just nine weeks left in the fiscal year.

The Department of Revenue attributes April's poor tax collections, in part, to the U.S. economy recording its slowest quarter in three years.

Mike Groll / AP

A state House panel is considering a plan to help fill significant budget gaps that have been left open for gambling revenue.

The Gaming Committee held a public hearing Monday on a longstanding proposal to legalize video gambling terminals in bars and other businesses.

The bill being discussed is House Bill 1010, which would allow up to 35,000 terminals in bars, social clubs, and other such businesses.

Proponents say it could earn $100 million in its first year, and $500 million annually once it’s fully implemented.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

It’s been a good news, bad news year for the arts when it comes to the state budget debate. 

The budgets proposed by both Gov. Tom Wolf and the House Republican Caucus keep funding for the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts at $9.6 million, as well as $2 million for museums.

However, both budget proposals move the funding out of the general budget where it has traditionally resided.

The governor’s plan funds the arts and other line items through the issuance of bonds. But the Republican Caucus rejected that proposal.

Is The Nation's Only Lt. Governor Mansion Worth Its Cost?

Apr 26, 2017
Pennsylvania Department of General Services

Nestled on a wooded hillside at Fort Indiantown Gap is a one-of-a-kind home - and it comes with a one-of-a-kind price tag to taxpayers.

The 2,400-square-foot Lieutenant Governor's residence off Fisher Avenue in East Hanover Township may be the only residence that any state provides to its second in command.

Daveynin / Flickr

The House GOP-led budget proposal—which passed on to the Senate last week—has drawn criticism from legislative Democrats, and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf for its austere tax cuts.

But it’s also seeing pushback from a more bipartisan group: the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association.

For the last few budget cycles, state funding has stayed largely flat for a number of county-level programs—including probation services, behavioral health services, and the multi-use Human Services Development Fund.

Republicans Eye Revenue Assumptions In Wolf's Budget

Feb 21, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Republican lawmakers are using budget hearings to question Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's assumptions for revenue from a minimum wage increase and a new tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf will ask lawmakers for another $10 million to help save the lives of people overdosing on heroin or prescription drugs.

The Wolf administration said Tuesday that the Democratic governor wants the money to help law enforcement agencies and first responders buy the overdose antidote naloxone.

Grants would be available through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Wolf will make the request in the budget proposal he submits to the Legislature next week for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Last Budget Meeting Was In December, Lawmaker Says

Mar 11, 2016
Governor Tom Wolf / 90.5 WESA

The state hasn’t had a full spending plan for more than eight months, but top lawmakers haven’t yet had a budget meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration in 2016, the House Appropriations Committee chairman said Thursday.

“We haven’t met since December,” said Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware). “And we should have been.”

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

  Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday laid out a new spending plan for lawmakers — even as they keep fighting over billions in the current budget.

School Officials Lobby To Keep Taxing Abilities

Nov 16, 2015
Mary Wilson / WHYY

Tiny preschoolers and K-12 school students took Monday off to join school board members and exasperated parents calling for an end to the state budget impasse, as Gov. Tom Wolf signaled a budget deal wouldn’t be ready before December. 

Members of the advocacy coalition known as Campaign for Fair Education Funding fanned out throughout the Capitol building to meet individually with their lawmakers and ask for a finalized state budget.

Screengrab / Twitter

As the state budget impasse continues, organizations that provide assistance to those in need across Pennsylvania are going into debt to cover costs.

Victim Outreach Intervention Center (VOICe) is one of those. The Butler County organization provides services to individuals and families who are survivors of sexual, domestic and other types of violence. Executive Director Heidi Artman said the organization relies heavily on state funding and she sums up the last few months as such.

Erie Legislator Offers Budget Compromise Proposal

Jul 23, 2015
Sean Wiley / Facebook Page

While it appears that Governor Wolf and Republican legislators in Harrisburg are entrenched in their positions on the budget with no end to the impasse in sight, there are some legislators offering up compromise proposals. We talk with one of them; State Senator Sean Wiley of Erie.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The political debate over the state budget has hit a lull within the walls of the state Capitol, but it's very much alive on roadside billboards, radio ads, and in mailboxes.

"We're in a messaging war, but that's on both sides," said Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) this week.

GOP ally Americans for Prosperity has radio ads and billboards blasting the governor for trying to raise taxes.

A state House Republican with a reputation for bucking party leaders is trying to loosen up the deadlock that has gripped budget negotiations for weeks.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) is offering his own attempt at a compromise state spending plan. It includes a new tax on natural gas drillers and a higher personal income tax — more than the GOP supported in new spending, but less than Gov. Tom Wolf proposed.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Some see the state Capitol deadlock over a state budget as political dysfunction or theatre. But it's also a social experiment: this is the year Pennsylvanians will see how a court decision ending "payless paydays" affects the budget negotiations.

No 'Illusions' Of Progress In PA Budget Talks

Jul 7, 2015

One week after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a GOP budget curtailing the state’s authority to spend money, negotiations over a new plan are at a standstill.

A Tuesday meeting between Republicans and the governor appeared to yield no progress toward the middle on a mix of tax proposals offered by Wolf and opposed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

William Del Toro is a natural lobbyist. He doesn't like noise or distractions, but in a loud, busy part of the Capitol one morning, he enthusiastically answered questions about job opportunities for people with disabilities.

"I'm going to tell you the truth," said Del Toro, pushing his glasses up. "I don't believe in the word, a disability. I think it's just we're all unique. We think a different way."

Pages