Here’s one idea to get budget talks moving: a booze shut-down.
Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is nearing the two-month mark. Negotiations are flat-lining. Perhaps it’s time, as the Pittsburgh Foundation suggested Friday, for “shared pressure” — close the state-run wine and liquor stores and freeze the pay of state lawmakers and the governor’s staff.
“To some extent, it’s tongue in cheek. I don’t think this is going to happen,” said Maxwell King, the foundation’s president. “What I’m saying is, if the vulnerable populations in Pennsylvania have to feel the pain of the budget impasse, let’s have some of the rest of us feel that pain as well … Let’s everybody wait until we get a budget to have a drink.”
Without a spending plan, state funding shuts off for public schools and many social service agencies. Some organizations that serve the most vulnerable say the impasse is forcing them to cut programs this month.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who does not accept a state paycheck, said this week that he wants the final state budget to include funding to reimburse social service agencies and schools for any borrowing costs they incur due to the standoff over the budget.
Negotiations haven’t yielded much agreement in two months. Wolf and Republican legislative leaders claimed progress this week as they traded offers on pensions and education funding. But the two sides remain far apart on their major priorities — for Wolf and his fellow Democrats, that’s education funding and property tax relief; for the Senate GOP, it’s scaling back public pensions; and for the House GOP, it’s razing the state liquor system.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a state budget at the end of June. Wolf promptly vetoed it, saying it wasn’t balanced.
House leaders say they’ll try a partial override of that veto on Tuesday. Their goal is to approve agreed-to line items within the budget, to send funding to schools and social services agencies.
But it’s not clear Republicans have the numbers or the power to trump the governor’s veto.
Democratic House Minority Leader Frank Dermody said he doubted his members would help the GOP chalk up the two-thirds majority vote required for an override. Democrats also say a piecemeal override of a budget veto is unconstitutional.