An interim Pennsylvania budget is on its way to the governor’s desk, after the Republican-controlled state House approved it Thursday afternoon. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to reject the package of bills, saying he wants a deal on a full year’s budget.
Republicans say the short-term plan will get state and federal funding flowing again to schools and social service agencies that have begun borrowing money, curbing services, and announcing layoffs since state funds dried up in July.
“This is a responsible procedure,” said Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware. “I’ve been receiving phone calls, emails, just like you folks. We need the money. We’re laying off employees.”
Democrats called the effort it a political stunt. “Passing a stopgap measure places zero urgency on the House and the Senate to come to full agreement with the governor,” said Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton. “This seems extremely counterproductive to me.”
Legislative leaders met with the governor to discuss the budget right after the House passed the stopgap package. Exiting the meeting, both sides said nothing had changed.
Republicans said they need more information to consider two potential compromises offered by the governor last week — to shift top state earners to a 401(k)-style pension in the future and to lease the state liquor system to a private manager.
“There’s a lot of details missing in the liquor proposal especially that we just really need more information on before we can give a concrete answer or counter-proposal,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed. “But it’s my understanding that we’re going to work through getting some of those answers.”
The state budget stalemate is nearing the three-month mark. The Senate GOP leader said the state faces severe revenue issues, even under a bare-bones budget, but he stressed that there isn’t enough support to pass broad-based tax increases. Republican leaders are not categorically ruling out a tax on Marcellus Shale drilling.