Pa. Dept. of Human Services gets a new secretary, but its future is still uncertain

 Lawmakers are having trouble deciding whether to merge two major state departments. (AP Photo)

Lawmakers are having trouble deciding whether to merge two major state departments. (AP Photo)

Monday is state Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller’s first day leading the commonwealth’s sprawling Department of Human Services.

She’ll have an even larger role if Human Services merges with the Department of Health.

But as budget negotiations drag on, the departments’ fates are uncertain.

Savings from the merger — a relatively modest $10 million — was assumed in the spending plan lawmakers passed last month.

But it’s not guaranteed to actually happen.

Senators didn’t include it in their latest proposal to balance the budget. GOP spokeswoman Jenn Kocher said they’re “agreeable” to it in the future, but need more information.

House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin said things are basically the same in his chamber.

“I think there’s definitely willingness on the part of our leaders and our caucus to get consolidations done,” he said. “I think everyone’s just trying to work through various concerns.”

The Health and Human Services merger isn’t the only one on the table.

Lawmakers are also trying to consolidate the Department of Corrections with the Board of Probation and Parole.

Miskin said as far as the House is concerned, either both mergers will get done, or neither will.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.