Friday, July 24, 2015

The Budget Process is Moving Forward

Budget negotiations continue, but with no finished product.  Talks between key budget negotiators concluded this week with no final budget, but did result in a “better understanding” between both sides on their differences. The House Appropriations Committee passed a budget framework vehicle (House Bill 1460) as a procedural motion to have the process start more quickly if/when an agreement is put into place.  As reported by PLS,  Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) said the move was necessary as part of House rules in order to make sure an agreed-to product can be considered in a timely manner. “House rules require the posting of a General Appropriations bill for second consideration, it takes about two weeks in advance of when this bill will actually be voted on the floor,” he told committee members. “We are voting House Bill 1460 today so we can get it a first reading and get it in position for second consideration whenever we’re able to reach a negotiated agreement with the administration." In the meantime, most state agencies continue to receive funding even without a budget, schools, non-profits, and local governments will not. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Another Budget Update

This summer has already seen major legislative battles in Harrisburg over Pennsylvania’s budget, liquor privatization and pension reform.  Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate have been dramatically far apart on these and other issues. On June 30, the Republican Majorities in the state legislature sent the Governor a $30.2 billion spending plan that held the line on taxes while boosting funding for education.  The Governor swiftly vetoed the entire budget, the first time Harrisburg observers believe this was done in modern history.

Pennsylvania is now without a budget in the new fiscal year, and both sides must restart discussions in an attempt to find common ground.  This process could take weeks or even months, an alarming notion for organizations that count on state funding and for individuals in need of state services.

Two big other issues of note: The General Assembly sent Governor Wolf legislation that would privatize Pennsylvania’s sale of wine and liquor, with state-owned stores closing over time as licenses were granted to businesses.  The Governor vetoed this legislation, saying he instead favors modernization of the current state-owned system.  In addition, the House and Senate sent the Governor a bill that calls for retirement benefits of future state and school district workers to be placed in a 401(k)-type system instead of the current approach based on employee salaries at the time of retirement.  As of early this week, the Governor has not taken action on this bill.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Budget Update

The House and Senate Republicans passed a budget on June 30th, which the Governor promptly vetoed.  However, legislative leaders met with the Governor the next day and all sides stated that they were still making efforts to find agreement on a General Fund budget.

However, the lack of a spending plan in place at the beginning of the July 1st Fiscal Year leaves the potential for vendors and human service organizations to be cut off from needed state funds. As reported by PLS, One thing all parties agreed to after Wednesday’s meeting was that staff meetings would begin immediately on topics, but substantive budget negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders would not begin again until after the July 4th holiday.

“We’re going to be working between now and the weekend, and then on Monday all sides are going to sit down to work with working groups,” said Gov. Wolf. “We now have two plans out there, mine and the plan that came out last night, and we’re going to sit down and spend how long it takes and make sure we are on the same page.”

Once a plan is agreed upon it could be up to 3 weeks of legislative process to see it passed and signed.