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Friday, October 07, 2022

Pennsylvania enters fiscal year without a budget

Harrisburg, Pa. ( Associated Press) — Work on a new state budget for Pennsylvania will move into the next week as the state government began the fiscal year with a reduced spending authorization Friday, the details of a new spending plan still largely a mystery. And there is a question about the interlocutors. Can resolve pending disputes.

Leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate sent rank-and-file lawmakers home to return Tuesday during the holiday weekend, prompting dismay among Democrats.

Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has said little and remained out of sight at the Capitol.

Rape. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, said that just because it’s July doesn’t mean it’s different from June, when budgets are negotiated, “everything is in flux and things can change at a moment’s notice.” Huh.”

Negotiators had yet to completely abbreviate rank-and-file lawmakers – who must still vote on budget legislation – or publish hundreds of pages of budget-related legislation that generally underpin spending plans.

Negotiations were interrupted in an 11-hour wrangling over a range of issues, though Republican lawmakers still publicly expressed confidence that closed-door talks on a plan to spend about $42 billion were on the right track.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, said, “Everybody is working hard, on either side of the aisle, the governor’s office, everyone is doing everything they can to get over the hump and move forward.” ” “But I think we’ll have a great product when we’re done.”

Without the new spending authorization, the state is legally barred from making certain payments, although a standoff typically must last several weeks before any effect on services is felt.

“There is definitely a way forward on all of these remaining issues,” said Representative Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “We need to show some leadership to get this home.”

In a long-term impasse, the state is legally obligated to make loan payments, cover Medicaid costs, issue unemployment compensation payments, keep prisons open, meet weekly payrolls, and more.

But, if it becomes necessary, Wolf’s administration may defer payments to vendors, such as utilities, insurers, suppliers and landlords, and stop paying discretionary items, such as tax credits, grants and discretionary subsidies such as public school aid. could.

For now, the state has billions of extra cash in its bank account. A Treasury Department spokesperson said it is not in danger of running out of money and can make payments that are legally required.

The state also has $2.2 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid, left over from last year, while federal pandemic aid continues to cover billions of dollars in additional Medicaid costs normally borne by the state.

Rank-and-file Republican lawmakers say they want a budget that keeps rising inflation rates, a benchmark that budget makers will meet by moving a few billion dollars on the books last year. Republicans also want to put another $5 billion in reserve.

The talks revolved around new aid for public schools and various concessions made by Wolf to Republican lawmakers.

New aid for public school instruction, operations, and special education is expected to total about $850 million, or about 10% more. Democrats call this a “historic” amount, though still less than what Wolfe requested in his February budget proposal.

Schools are also expected to receive security upgrades and another $200 million for counselors or psychiatrists – a response to the difficulties recently highlighted by mass shootings and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budget makers are not considering any comprehensive tax deduction on sales or income. Rather, Wolf and Republican lawmakers have focused on cutting Pennsylvania’s 9.99% corporate income tax rate, one of the nation’s highest.

There will also be more money for nursing homes, county-administered mental health counseling programs, child care subsidies and possibly a program that helps the elderly and disabled pay for property taxes or rent.

In addition, Sailor said it expected “the largest investment in the environment in decades, if not a century”.

In return for increasing aid to schools, Republican lawmakers sought concessions on various policy goals, which Wolf adopted unilaterally over Republican objections.

These include rules written by Wolf’s administration concerning strong ethics, accounting and admissions standards to charter schools.

Republicans have also pushed for a deal on legislation to restrict third-party funding to county election offices and equipment — a demand inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. .

Another fight involves more than $150 million in state aid for the University of Pittsburgh.

Abortion rights opponents in the House have withheld aid, insisting before the university ended its federally funded fetal tissue research. The controversy has divided Republicans.

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Follow Mark Levy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/timelywriter.

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