Pa. budget likely to come late, with money borrowed to fill gaps

     Lawmakers have two days until the budget deadline. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Lawmakers have two days until the budget deadline. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    The budget is due Friday, but lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf still aren’t offering up any concrete details.

    So far, we know there’s a $1.5 billion shortfall from this fiscal year that needs to be filled.

    We know lawmakers are looking for roughly $700 or $800 million on top of that to balance next year’s spending.

    We know most of the new money will come from a gambling expansion, and according to the governor, there’s a good chance the state will borrow against some future revenue to patch its shortfall. One candidate is a large tobacco settlement fund.

    But specifics are scarce. House GOP spokesman Steven Miskin, for one, had little to tell reporters.

    “I believe that [borrowing] may be an idea that was being floated, but we’re — I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know where that is. I don’t know that. I don’t know.”

    Wolf gave a slightly more substantive answer when asked whether government would borrow to fill its shortfall. He indicated that even though borrowed cash wouldn’t be a renewable revenue source, it might be appropriate in this case.

    “There is a component of the gap that is a one-time component,” he said. “I think it’s fair that it should be a one-time solution.”

    Overall, Wolf seemed unbothered.

    “I hate to sound like a Pollyanna here, but this is my third budget, and I really think there is a nice tone,” he said. “I think we’re trying to work together and be constructive here.”

    That doesn’t mean the budget will be on-time, though.

    Party leaders said a spending plan is likely to hit Wolf’s desk by the fiscal year’s end. But the revenue bill to balance it will probably take longer.

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