Pa. House budget plan gets skeptical response from Wolf, Dems and Senate

Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams,

Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams, supports the controversial House budget plan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, file)

A group of Pennsylvania House Republicans has unveiled a plan to balance the more than $2 billion budget deficit by, primarily, raiding dozens of state funds.

Eighteen rank-and-file House Republicans said they spent most of the summer working on the plan that they call “The Taxpayers’ Budget.”

It would transfer cash from the “special” funds that help pay for a number of state programs and services. Supporters of the plan said they limited the transfers to funds with “inordinately high” balances.

State Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams,  said he thinks that money flies under the radar.

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“Until every source of reserve revenue is exhausted, we should not ask more of our taxpayers,” he said.

On paper, the plan raises $2.4 billion.

Supporters say it wouldn’t lead to program cuts, but House Democratic Spokesman Bill Patton said his caucus isn’t convinced.

“We’re very concerned,” he said. “The dedicated restricted funds that they are targeting exist for very specific purposes.”

Those purposes are diverse.

“Things such as recycling, county 911 centers, farmland preservation — those leap to mind,” Patton said.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody also wondered whether it is legal to raid “accounts that are restricted by law for special purposes.”

The House Democrats weren’t the only ones with reservations.

Some of the largest appropriations in the plan come from funds dedicated for public transportation and environmental cleanup programs. JJ Abbott, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf, said those programs would definitely be affected.

“This is not complicated,” he said. “These funds support essential commonwealth programs. If the money is not there, every Pennsylvanian will be negatively impacted.”

Senate GOP spokeswoman Jenn Kocher said her caucus would consider the plan if the House passes it — but she too wasn’t fully on board.

“We are fearful that the new House plan would harm agricultural, environmental and transportation projects across the commonwealth while not addressing long-term budgetary concerns,” she said.

The plan’s backers said they’re confident the measure can at least pass the House, though a spokesman said there haven’t been any official vote counts yet.

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