Pa. treasurer making plans for budget impasse — just in case

     Joseph M. Torsella, speaks to the crowd, after being sworn in as Treasurer of Pennsylvania, at Camp Curtin Academy in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. (Chris Knight/AP Photo)

    Joseph M. Torsella, speaks to the crowd, after being sworn in as Treasurer of Pennsylvania, at Camp Curtin Academy in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. (Chris Knight/AP Photo)

    State lawmakers are making progress on next year’s budget, with about three months to go before their deadline.

    But it’s still a legislature prone to deadlock, so state Treasurer Joe Torsella is making preparations for a potential impasse.

    Most of the time when Harrisburg misses the June 30 budget deadline, it’s not a serious issue. A majority of state services can keep running for a time on the budget from the previous fiscal year.

    But if lawmakers miss the deadline by a lot, questions arise. Namely, can the treasury keep paying out public money to the branches of government?

    That was a problem during the nine-month standoff that stretched from July 2015 to the following year.

    Then-Treasurer Timothy Reese decided, yes—the Treasury could continue paying out state funds, including salaries for the judicial and executive branches, and the House Democrats.

    Both chambers of the Senate and the House Republicans opted to take out bank loans to pay salaries instead.

    There’s still no official policy, though. So Torsella said his office is reexamining the issue with the goal of giving “some rigor to the question of what will and won’t be paid in an impasse.”

    “Look, everybody hopes there won’t be [an impasse],” he said. “But everybody knows that establishing the rules of the road while you’re driving is a bad idea.”

    Torsella noted, the legislature and governor seem less diametrically opposed going into this budget than in years past. But still, he said, you never know.

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