Pennsylvania Budget

Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania is in its third month with no balanced budget.

Governor Tom Wolf, Senate Democrats and Republicans, and House Democrats are pushing House Republicans to agree to a compromise plan that would raise some taxes and borrow money to fill a $2.2 billion shortfall.

The caucus is still holding out—and even its own members appear conflicted on what to do.

About 20 of the House’s more conservative members released a plan this week to balance the budget on transfers from the special state funds that help pay for things like transportation and parks.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says a plan assembled by a group of House Republicans to balance Pennsylvania's budget is "nonsense" and urged House members to approve a $2.2 billion bipartisan plan that passed the state Senate in July.

Wolf said Wednesday the House GOP plan would divert aid from other programs, such as volunteer fire companies, highways and county emergency response agencies.

Wolf also repeated an earlier warning that he'll have to start freezing some spending on Sept. 15 to prevent the state's main bank account from going below zero.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A group of House Republicans has unveiled a plan to balance the more than $2 billion budget deficit by, primarily, raiding dozens of state funds.

Eighteen rank and file House Republicans said they spent most of the summer working on the plan, which they named “The Taxpayers’ Budget.”

It would transfer cash from the so-called “special” funds that help pay for a number of state programs and services. Supporters of the plan said they limited the transfers to funds with “inordinately high” balances.

Wolf: Pennsylvanians Will 'Get Hurt' If Budget Isn't Funded

Sep 5, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is warning that Pennsylvanians will "get hurt" if state lawmakers don't pass a revenue package to balance a nearly $32 billion budget bill they approved more than two months ago.

Wolf also told interviewers on KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh on Tuesday that his decision day is Sept. 15, when he'll have to start freezing some spending to prevent the state's main bank account from going below zero.

Wolf says freezing spending could affect roads, schools and emergency response systems.

No House votes are scheduled this week.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Nearly two months after the state's budget deadline, lawmakers still haven't reached a consensus on how to pay for the spending plan they authorized in June.

Wolf To GOP: State's Finances Will Soon Be 'Much More Dire'

Aug 29, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf warned House Republican leaders Tuesday that failing to fully fund the state budget will put Pennsylvania in "a much more dire financial situation" in the coming weeks.

Wolf's letter to Speaker Mike Turzai, Majority Leader Dave Reed and six other House GOP leaders urged them to act quickly to fill the budget's $2.2 billion revenue gap.

What Will The House Do? It’s Pennsylvania’s $2B Question

Aug 28, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

The question of what Pennsylvania's House Republican majority will do about a $2.2 billion hole in the state budget is sending ripples of worry through some quarters.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

With talk swirling of possible spending freezes over the unbalanced state budget, counties are trying to figure out how they may be impacted.

County commissioners are beginning to put together contingency plans in case any of their state funds get cut off.

Governor Tom Wolf has already stopped some spending to put it into budgetary reserves, and indicated this week that more could be coming.

Google Maps

Less than two months into a new budget year, the state seems to be engaged in a loop of borrowing and paying itself back. 

On Aug. 16, the Pennsylvania Treasury provided a $750 million loan to the General Fund to pay its bills.

“It’s always a problem when you’re having to borrow money to pay your daily living expenses,” said Deputy Treasurer Jack Stollsteimer.

The state is scheduled to repay that loan Wednesday, as August revenues come into commonwealth coffers, but then ask for another loan at the end of the month from the Treasury’s Short Term Investment Pool.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

If Pennsylvania’s $2.2 billion budget gap isn’t filled soon, Governor Tom Wolf is indicating the commonwealth could be heading for major spending freezes.

Wolf said Tuesday that the situation could be resolved if House Republicans would just agree to a Senate revenue plan that includes several new taxes.

Caucus leaders are, for the most part, staying mum on how their negotiations are progressing.

By Sept. 15, the governor said he either has to put spending for certain state programs on hold, or borrow more money from the Treasury.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

It’s been nearly a month since the state Senate voted through a revenue plan that would fund the state budget—if the House agrees to it.

 

But Harrisburg watchdogs are still poring over it to figure out where money is going.

 

The right-leaning Commonwealth Foundation has released a report detailing instances where senators slipped spending into a bill meant to fund the budget.

 

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania has had an unbalanced budget for nearly a month, and advocacy groups around the commonwealth say they have real concerns Governor Tom Wolf will soon have to start freezing spending as a result.

Pennsylvania Running Out Of Options For Cash To Pay Bills

Aug 21, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Top state officials are warning that Pennsylvania's deficit-strapped government is rapidly approaching a more severe stage in its seven-week-old budget stalemate, one in which Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf may have to start deciding which bills to pay and which to postpone.

Taxes are still being collected and checks are being cut by the Pennsylvania Treasury under a nearly $32 billion budget bill that lawmakers approved June 30, the day before the current fiscal year began.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state House has no official plans to resume negotiations on balancing the state budget.

In a rare update, House Majority Leader Dave Reed said while members continue to discuss a proposal passed by the Senate last month, they’re not ready to introduce a counter-offer of their own.

Key components of the Senate plan include a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drilling, sales tax expansions, and consumer taxes on natural gas, electricity, and phone service.

Reed said the consumer gas tax—known as a gross receipts tax—is particularly hard to swallow.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

As lawmakers try to negotiate a budget that’ll pass the House, Senate, and Governor, plus fill a $2 billion funding gap, they’re also grappling with another issue.

Nearly a year ago, the State Supreme Court declared that a law governing how casinos pay fees to their host municipalities was unconstitutional, and gave lawmakers an ultimatum: fix the law, or it’ll be invalidated.

Today, it’s still not fixed. And that’s losing some towns money.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

One of the state’s two largest pension funds has released its financial report for 2016.

The State Employees Retirement System—or SERS—continued a longstanding pattern last year of coming up short of projected long-term earnings.

It brought in $1.6 billion in 2016. That constitutes a 6.5 percent return, and spokeswoman Pamela Hile said that “when talking about an underfunded pension system, that is very good news.”

Senate Jams Shale Tax, Industry Permits Into Unhappy Package

Aug 7, 2017
Keith Srakocic / AP

For years, environmental advocates have sought a tax on Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale natural gas production while business associations have sought speedier state approval of permits for the activities of polluting industries.

Now, legislation approved by the Republican-controlled state Senate gave both provisions an unexpected and unwelcome passenger: each other.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

State Treasurer Joe Torsella has extended a temporary, $750 million line of credit to keep Pennsylvania’s general fund balance from running dry this month.

He’s calling the situation “extraordinary and without precedent.”

That doesn’t quite square with the way Governor Tom Wolf has appeared to downplay the impact of the state budget still being unbalanced, over a month into the fiscal year.

Mel Evans / AP

Pennsylvania's state treasurer has authorized a short-term $750 million line of credit to keep the state's general fund from dipping into negative territory.

Treasurer Joe Torsella says the state hasn't had to borrow that much so early in the fiscal year in 25 years.

Torsella, a Democrat who took office in January, is urging legislators to "pass a responsible revenue package."

Tom Downing / WITF

A month past the due date, negotiations on how to fund Pennsylvania's $32 billion spending plan are effectively stalled.

With the state House in indefinite recess as lawmakers consider how to respond to a revenue proposal from the Senate, Governor Tom Wolf is seeking to allay fears about what an unbalanced budget means for the commonwealth.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The revenue component of the state budget still isn’t done, more than a month past its due date.

But that doesn’t mean Pennsylvania has stopped doing business. It’s still spending and taking in money, and it’s still releasing monthly reports on how state collections are stacking up against projections.

The only problem? Because there’s no revenue plan, analysts can’t estimate exactly how much the state should be taking in.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Nearly five weeks after adopting a $32 billion budget for this fiscal year, state lawmakers are still arguing over how to fund it—precisely, how to fill a $2 billion shortfall in revenues.

Matt Rourke / AP

A fund transfer lawmakers are proposing to help balance the state budget is causing some legal headaches.

The Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association—a group created in 1976 to insure healthcare providers—is saying the state is not authorized to take $200 million from its account.

It’s a conflict that first cropped up last year, when the cash-strapped legislature decided to move $200 million dollars from the JUA's surplus to the general fund.

The group said it was inappropriate, and filed suit.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A portion of the state Senate’s latest, tax-heavy plan to balance the commonwealth's budget is likely to prompt some legal entanglement.

Senators’ proposal to expand how the commonwealth’s sales tax is applied to online transactions is modeled on similar attempts by other states.

Those states are already facing lawsuits.

If the measure passes the House and governor, it would require online marketplaces—like Amazon—to charge sales tax on items they sell via third-party vendors.

The move is expected to net more than $40 million annually.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Senate has taken a step toward finishing Pennsylvania’s unbalanced budget, which was supposed to be done nearly a month ago.

The revenue proposal the chamber passed Thursday relies on a hodgepodge of new taxes, plus borrowing to fill a $2.2 billion funding gap.

However, it’s likely setting up a battle between the Republican majorities in the House and Senate. With the ball now back in the House’s court, it’s unclear what it'll do with it.

Senators turned the new proposal around quickly.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a revenue package to patch a more than $2 billion hole in the state's $32 billion budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. It could face opposition in the House of Representatives before it reaches the desk of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who supported it. Here are details:

___

NATURAL GAS PRODUCTION

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

In hopes of finally finishing the budget that was due at the end of June, the GOP-led state Senate is pushing a revenue package that departs significantly from previous tax-averse attempts.

Republicans have repeatedly clashed with Governor Tom Wolf over the amount of recurring dollars necessary to fill a $2 billion hole in the $32 billion budget.

This new proposal boosts revenue to a level a Wolf spokesman calls “responsible,” and it does so, in part, by raising taxes.

Matt Rourke / AP

State Senators are scheduled to return to session Wednesday for a two-day stint, in an effort to iron out differences in a budget that’s nearly a month overdue.

The chamber plans to pick up where it left negotiations two weeks ago, and appears to be largely disregarding last week’s House session.

The major options being considered to fill a $2 billion gap in the $32 billion budget have been borrowing against a state fund to plug last year’s significant shortfall, select fund transfers, and a gambling expansion.

Leaders have also floated some form of tax increase.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's one of only four states that still hasn't passed a budget for the fiscal year that ended in June.

Wolf Not Alarmed By Lack Of Budget Progress

Jul 24, 2017
Peter Crimmins / WHYY

While touring a cancer immunotherapy developer at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf insisted budget negotiations in Harrisburg are progressing well, even though House members came in on Saturday and then failed to strike a deal.  Wolf visited Adaptimmune, which received state money to build a new, LEED-certified medical manufacturing facility in the Navy Yard, two days after Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai called an emergency weekend session to hash out a way to fund the newly-approved state budget plan.

Pages