Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella is warning that state might be unable to pay all its bills in a matter of weeks if the budget standoff in Harrisburg isn’t resolved.
The Legislature has approved $32 billion in spending, but lawmakers and the governor haven’t agreed on a revenue package to fund it.
Torsella has written lawmakers saying the state’s general fund — in effect, its checking account — has been running lower balances as the state’s financial position has weakened.
Torsella said without a realistic revenue package to support the planned spending, the fund will be in the red in eight of the next 12 months.
And, he said in an interview, the trouble will begin soon.
“The state is not going to be able to pay bills as early as the end of August, beginning part of September,” Torsella said.
That would mean the governor’s staff would have to decide which programs to fund and which vendors to pay until things change.
The treasurer’s office has historically carried the general fund through lean periods by loaning money from other funds it manages.
“But that amount has been going up and up each year,” Torsella said, “and we’re not able to do it meet the need that is forecast.”
Torsella said the state can borrow in public markets, but it wouldn’t be a responsible course without a revenue plan.
Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders have been negotiating over a revenue package to cover the roughly $2 billion in deficits for the previous and current budget years.
Wolf wants a recurring revenue source, such as a shale tax, in the mix. Legislative leaders want to see less spending.
Both sides say they’re working on it.