In hindsight, Maxwell King thinks late budgets became a lot more tolerable for state politicians in 2009.
That’s when a court ruling allowed state employees to continue being paid during a stalemate. King, president of the Pittsburgh Foundation, which supports nonprofits, said the state Supreme Court decision narrowed the harm caused by frozen state funding.
“Now, basically, it’s just the most vulnerable populations in the state who are held hostage to the budget process,” said King. His foundation is raising awareness of the impact of the stalemate on nonprofits, and pushing for reforms to the budget process – but what reforms, exactly?
Legislative proposals to change the effect of late budgets haven’t gained traction in nearly a year.
A state Senate proposal would make tardy budgets immediately uncomfortable for the powerful by suspending pay for lawmakers and top state officials during the impasse.
A House plan takes the hold-harmless approach, ensuring that state funding continues to flow freely even if the new budget is late.
Meanwhile, nonprofits have been curbing services, laying off employees, and borrowing money to stay open while they are cut off from their state funding.
Moody’s Investor Service said Friday that the impasse is having a negative impact on the credit of school districts and community colleges, which rely on state aid for their operating and borrowing costs. The agency downgraded credit ratings for all seven Pennsylvania community colleges late last month.
King said he’s shared his concerns with top lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf.
“But I haven’t asked them for specifics about how it can be reformed,” he said. “I guess if that can’t be done by changing practice, then putting some teeth into the law that requires a state budget ,so that basically everything shuts down if there isn’t a budget.”