State Budget

Governor Tom Wolf / flickr

The deadline for the Pennsylvania state budget is fast approaching. Governor Wolf’s administration is assuring tax payers and state workers failure to meet the deadline will not affect them. Will the governor and state lawmakers be able to agree on a budget on time? State Senator Jay Costa provides his insight on the future of budget discussions. 

Costa believes some of his colleagues are responsible for the delay:

"I am anticipating a late budget and it is largely because the party on the other side has refused to allow the governor to dissipate and to respect and honor the concessions that he's made in this process. They've been significant and they've moved the ball forward but unfortunately you've got some leaders who are simply hell bent on trying to force the governor to veto his budget." - State Senator Jay Costa

Also in the program, Promised Beginnings is an offshoot of Safer Tougher Pittsburgh, aiming to educate parents of young children on public safety.

Lindsay Lazarski / Keystone Crossroads

The centerpiece of Gov. Tom Wolf's state budget died its umpteenth death around a negotiating table this week.

Republican legislative leaders emerged from closed-door negotiations with the Democratic Wolf administration to announce that the governor's proposed severance tax on natural gas drillers is a non-negotiable no-go.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A state budget deadline looms at the end of the month, but Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers remain divided on a spending plan.

Entities that rely on the state for funding have cautioned about the headaches caused by lengthy budget standoffs. But Wolf says he’s not resigned to a late state budget.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

State budget negotiations are starting to take shape in Harrisburg. The backbiting has subsided for now, as meetings pick up between Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders.

The governor rankled Republicans recently when he said he was prepared to work on a state budget long after the June 30 deadline.

House Republican Majority Leader Dave Reed took umbrage at the remark, calling it "premature" and suggesting Wolf said it because he was "new at this process." By Wednesday, things had been smoothed over in a meeting Wolf held with GOP legislative leaders the day before.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

For weeks, state lawmakers have been asking for more details about how Gov. Tom Wolf's tax proposals will affect their constituents. They recently got an answer from the state House GOP.

The state's acting treasurer says the amount of money slated to pay the interest on borrowing is going up under Gov. Tom Wolf's budget, showing a growing reliance on short-term financing.        

Pennsylvania's cash flow problem has arguably worsened over the past year.

The Wolf administration got the OK to borrow $500 million from the state treasury to pay its bills. The latest round of borrowing builds on a $1.5 billion line of credit established by the Corbett administration last September.           

Tim Lambert / WITF

As Governor Tom Wolf prepares to introduce his first budget as Pennsylvania’s governor, two state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would limit state spending – with the ultimate goal of leaving the issue up to the voters. The bill, introduced by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-Greene) would tie the spending limit to the growth of the population and inflation.

“That percentage is all that the budget can grow,” said Bartolotta, “when there’s an excess in that, 25 percent of that will go back to the taxpayers, 25 percent will go to Rainy Day Fund and 50 percent of that excess will go to pay down the pension problem.”

The change is needed, according to Bartolotta, because general fund spending has more than tripled over the past 30 years.

“The population’s only grown by 7.7 percent and unfortunately the budget has grown to over 1,010 percent in that amount of time,” she said.

Gov. Tom Corbett is shrugging off the possibility state lawmakers will sue him for blocking their earmarks earlier this month.

Legislative leaders say the line-item veto of seven-point-two million dollars in projects was unconstitutional.

They could try to override the veto with a two-thirds vote, or sue the administration.

Corbett said he doesn’t think a court battle is likely, though he’s not troubled by the possibility.

"Let them sue me," he said. "Last time I looked, that’s in the constitution, isn’t it?"

Lawmakers think the governor overreached when he vetoed not just parts of the state budget, but parts of another related piece of legislation, and House and Senate leaders are weighing their options to retaliate.

The state constitution allows the governor to partially veto “appropriations.” Lawmakers have interpreted that to mean specific sections of a state budget can be struck down by the governor.

Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett did that.

90.5 WESA

On the eve of the state budget deadline, Governor Tom Corbett announced Thursday that he had signed the $29 billion state spending plan, but line-item vetoed $65 million in legislative spending.

The Governor is blaming budget problems on pension costs and called on the legislature to come back and enact pension reform.

Penn Live’s John Micek said he expected that Corbett’s announcement would include the line-item veto, so he was not surprised with the outcome. 

Micek was instead surprised by Corbett's demeanor.

“I wondered where this Tom Corbett was four years ago. Very strong, very decisive. You know, not taking any guff, casting the legislature as the bad guy. His approval rating has been lousy, theirs’ is worse than his. So he loses nothing by running against them and making them the bogeyman here.”

Though Gov. Tom Corbett signed the 2014-15 state budget, he line-item vetoed $65 million in General Assembly spending and an additional $7.2 million in legislative designated spending.

He said he did this because the lawmakers sent him a budget that was filled with discretionary spending but refused to deal with the unsustainable public pension system.

Instead, he said the Assembly increased its $320 million budget by two percent – which he said would cost taxpayers an additional $5 million.

State lawmakers unceremoniously sidelined a public pension overhaul bill Tuesday, disarming House Republicans in their efforts to advance a priority topping Gov. Tom Corbett’s legislative wish list.

Midway through floor debate on the measure, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R- Bucks) asked to send the pensions proposal to his committee for further study over the summer.

“There are too many unanswered questions about the proposal and about the amendment that we have before us,” said DiGirolamo.

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a $29.1 billion state budget late Monday to the fanfare of Republicans and jeers of Democrats. Gov. Tom Corbett has yet to sign the budget, citing a lack of a pension overhaul.

Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington) is one of many Democrats displeased with the bill.

Gov. Tom Corbett is holding off on signing the $29.1 billion commonwealth budget approved by state lawmakers Monday evening.

The announcement came just after the final vote on the spending plan, which includes no new taxes but leans heavily on one-time revenue sources and hopeful revenue forecasts.

In a written statement, the governor took issue not with anything in the spending plan, but with the Legislature’s failure to pass another one of his top priorities: changes to public pension benefits for future state and school employees.

The state House passed a $29.1 billion spending plan Wednesday, five days before the July 30 budget deadline. The measure now heads to the Senate, which looks likely to make big changes to the revenue sources assumed in the plan, if not the final spend figure.

House Republicans heralded the proposal as a reflection of their priorities: holding the line on spending, without raising taxes, and passed before July.

With about a week left before the state budget deadline, House lawmakers have advanced an actual spending plan.

Until now, the House has been teeing up a bill referred to merely as vehicle - last year's budget in new legislation, a placeholder for whenever the Republican majority put together the plan it intended to send to the Senate.

And in some ways, the $29.1 billion spending plan voted out of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday is still just a vehicle. It's likely to undergo some big changes before heading to the governor's desk.

State lawmakers are heading into the final stretch of June, and for the first time in four years, a budget agreement doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

Gov. Tom Corbett, who ran for office promising timely state budgets, has said he’ll forgive a late spending plan in return for passage of two other legislative priorities: an overhaul of public pensions and changes to how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Corbett says he’ll make do with a late budget this year and possibly renege on his no-taxes campaign pledge.  

“Given the difficulty of this budget, I have allowed — I have informed — the legislators, we need to get this done and we need to get it done right, rather than quickly,” said Corbett at a news conference Tuesday. “So, if we are not able to finish by June 30, we are not able to finish by June 30.”

It’s shaping up to be a longer-than-usual work calendar for state lawmakers negotiating the commonwealth’s budget.

House and Senate Republican leaders aren’t expecting to meet the state constitution’s end-of-June budget deadline.

“It’s unlikely that we will finish our work by June 30,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he told his caucus’s members. “Certainly be prepared for at least the first week in July.”

When pressed for more details (for example: just how far should lawmakers and staff push back holiday plans?), Pileggi was reticent.

State lawmakers return to Harrisburg next week for the relatively action-packed month of June. It’s a time reserved for finalizing a state budget before the July 1 deadline, and all signs point to a tough road ahead.

A projected $1.2 billion deficit is likely to grow, as May tax collections have been lackluster.

“May’s collection numbers, to date, have been below what we would’ve hoped,” said GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi. “So we’re very closely watching how the month of May will close.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Corbett was in Pittsburgh Monday, touring the Carnegie Science Center and touting his 2015-16 budget proposal, which he says includes funds mean to boost student achievement in STEM fields.

“It’s vital to make sure that every child today … has a full productive life for tomorrow, and (is) being exposed to science, technology, engineering, and math,” Corbett said.

pa.gov

Gov. Tom Corbett delivered his fourth budget address midday Tuesday, calling for more than $900 million in additional state spending over the current fiscal year.

A good chunk of Corbett’s proposed roughly 3 percent increase in state spending would go to education. About $300 million more would go toward a new block grant for schools, special education and early learning programs, and higher education scholarships.

The proposal also calls for continuing the phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax on business holdings, erasing the levy by 2016.

A state representative wants to take all the drama out of the end-of session budgeting frenzy.
    
Chester County Republican Dan Truitt is borrowing an idea that’s been offered before in the state Capitol.

In the event that no spending plan is finalized by July first, he proposes having the old budget “roll over” to set funding levels temporarily until a deal is hashed out.

State Senate lawmakers are sending a budget-related bill to the governor’s desk, after a committee went along with a House move to remove Medicaid expansion from the measure.
    
Republicans say adding the Medicaid plan back to the bill would have been wasted effort, since neither the House nor the governor is open to an expansion right now.
    
But Democratic Senator Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia said he’s disappointed, since the earlier Medicaid expansion language passed in the Senate with bipartisan support.  

Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed an on-time budget, but without any victories on his other top three legislative priorities.

Liquor privatization, transportation funding and pension overhaul will have to wait until the fall for further legislative action.

A transportation funding plan got stuck in the House. A bid to change how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania stalled in the Senate. Pension overhaul is a plan neither chamber is ready to advance.

An education funding advocacy group says it has polling data that shows Pennsylvanians place public education high on their priority list and would not mind paying higher income or sales taxes to better support school.

Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center commissioned the Lake Researcher Partners poll.

The poll found that 56 percent of all respondents have a favorable opinion of public schools, and 48 percent said they were very concerned about funding for the schools.

90.5 WESA

The state budget deadline is days away, but the spending plan is practically an afterthought to lawmakers as Gov. Tom Corbett's other priorities remain unresolved.

A scaled-back pension overhaul proposal is advancing in the Senate and still needs House approval. But it's not the subject of intense disagreement between the chambers, as Senate GOP spokesman Erik Arneson notes is true of other items on the governor's to-do list, like transportation funding and liquor privatization.

Three big issues have dominated the state budget debate, but with less than two weeks before June 30, one lawmaker is suggesting poor schools are getting short shrift.

"Pensions, transportation, liquor — they're being resolved as we speak," said Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia). "Education has not been resolved, and it can actually affect whether we get a budget or not."

State House GOP leaders expect to send a $28.3 billion budget proposal to the Senate on Wednesday. The move is largely procedural, since closed-door budget negotiations are still ongoing.

The House was originally slated to vote on the spending plan late Tuesday afternoon. But since final remarks on the floor were expected to go on into the evening, the final vote was put off.

"We clearly have the votes. The votes aren't a question," said Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery). "There's nobody getting beat up tonight, there's nobody getting sequestered."

An estimated 350 state and public sector workers rallied at the state Capitol Monday to call for more funding for education and human services.

Members of the Service Employees International Union also urged Gov. Tom Corbett to drop his calls for pension overhaul, which would include reducing the future benefits of current state and public school employees.

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