PA Lawmakers Float Stringent Budget Bill To Save Money

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Several Republican state senators plan to introduce legislation that would require Pennsylvania to use zero-based budgeting–a standard specifically designed to save money. The idea comes from lawmakers’ annual, unsuccessful struggles to balance the commonwealth’s books. However, other states that have attempted to use the method have often opted not to stick with it. Zero-based budgeting basically requires a rotating percentage of state agencies to re-justify all their operations and expenses every five years, and estimate the minimum amount of money they need to continue them. The author of the new measure, York County Republican Scott Wagner, said he’s taking cues from the private sector.

$1-Billion Hole Projected For Next Year’s PA Budget

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Pennsylvania is already on track to have a significant budget gap to fill next year. A study from the Independent Fiscal Office shows lawmakers will likely need to come up with about a billion dollars to keep the books balanced. They only just finished this year’s budget, four months behind schedule. It was mostly filled with borrowing, expected revenue from a gambling expansion and a number of internal fund transfers. Much of the money isn’t recurring, and that’s a big reason why the IFO is predicting the state will have to find more cash next year.

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PA Treasurer Authorizes Major Loan To Cover State Expenses

HARRISBURG (WSKG) – The state Treasury has authorized a major $1.8 billion loan to keep Pennsylvania’s general fund from running out of money.  It comes just in time for the commonwealth to make major public school payments. Over the last several years, it became routine for the Treasury to extend large loans early in the fiscal year, because the bulk of state revenues have tended to come in later months. But this year, Treasurer Joe Torsella refused to follow suit until the state budget was finished–calling it irresponsible to do so. The Senate and Governor Tom Wolf supported the decision to delay the loan, though House Republicans didn’t.  Wolf still hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll sign the legislature’s now-complete revenue plan, but Torsella said he’s comfortable lending the money based on the administration’s promises to manage funds responsibly. In a statement, Torsella said because of the “unusual events surrounding this year’s budget,” the Treasury opted to add provisions to the loan that would “secure Treasury’s investment, and provide alternatives if circumstances change.”

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New York, California Governors Team Up Against Tax Overhaul

ALBANY (WSKG) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a conference call with California Gov. Jerry Brown, singled out two New York GOP congressmen for criticism after they voted for a budget measure that clears the way for a vote on the Republican plan to overhaul the tax system. Cuomo has been speaking out nearly every day against a proposal in the federal tax overhaul plan to eliminate state and local tax deductions from federal income tax filings. He calls it double taxation and a political attack on New York. The state comptroller has said New Yorkers would lose $72 billion in state and local tax deductions if the Republican plan in Congress were to be approved. That’s because New York has one of the highest local tax rates in the nation.

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PA House Passes Final Budget; Ball In Governor’s Court

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — The state House has sent a gambling expansion bill to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk–effectively finishing the budget they’ve labored over this entire fiscal year, four months past the due date.  The long, complex measure prompted hours of debate over the course of two days. It significantly broadens Pennsylvania’s 13-year-old gaming industry. Gambling in airports and over the internet will now be legal. Truck stops across the commonwealth can install video gaming terminals–or VGTs–and up to 10 new miniature casinos are authorized. Lawmakers have repeatedly failed to pass similar bills in recent years.

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PA’s State Budget Could Be Finished Today

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — After almost four months of false starts and negotiation breakdowns, the state legislature has passed most of a plan to fund Pennsylvania’s budget–almost entirely through borrowing and internal transfers. Lawmakers say the end is finally in sight. However, the House still has to pass a gambling expansion bill, which they’ll resume debating at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning, after running out the clock late Wednesday night. The final proposed funding package is essentially the same as one the House passed last week. And Senate GOP Leader Jake Corman said that’s with good reason.

Some Progress Toward PA Budget Resolution, But Hang-Ups Persist

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — The legislature is crawling closer to finishing its nearly four-months-late state budget–with the House and Senate both saying they’re aiming to finalize a plan based mostly on borrowing this week. “It’s been a long three months, so hopefully there’s more optimism than there was for most of the time,” House Republican Leader Dave Reed said. “But,” he added, “we’ll wait and see.” So far, the legislature has sent the governor its fiscal code, which implements the overall budget, and which Wolf said he still has to review. Now, Senate leaders say they plan to take up the public school code bill and, likely, the tax code–which contains most of the revenue components that would actually balance the budget.

Some Progress Toward PA Budget Resolution, But Hang-Ups Persist

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — The legislature is crawling closer to finishing its nearly four-months-late state budget–with the House and Senate both saying they’re aiming to finalize a plan based mostly on borrowing this week. “It’s been a long three months, so hopefully there’s more optimism than there was for most of the time,” House Republican Leader Dave Reed said. “But,” he added, “we’ll wait and see.” So far, the legislature has sent the governor its fiscal code, which implements the overall budget, and which Wolf said he still has to review. Now, Senate leaders say they plan to take up the public school code bill and, likely, the tax code–which contains most of the revenue components that would actually balance the budget.

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No Budget Progress, But PA Lawmakers Say Talks Continue

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — The state House and Senate are back in session after taking time off following the collapse of budget negotiations earlier this month.  There’s no concrete strategy moving forward. But some lawmakers say they hope opposition to Governor Tom Wolf’s unilateral budget-balancing plan will eventually spur the body into action. Wolf has announced he intends to bring the state’s books in line by borrowing against liquor control board revenues, leasing out the state Farm Show complex, and not passing funding for state related universities. So now, the big question in Harrisburg is whether lawmakers will accept that, or come up with an alternative plan. House GOP Leader Dave Reed, of Indiana County, seemed skeptical any movement would happen soon.

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`Tough Decisions’ Ahead For New York’s State Budget

ALBANY (WSKG) – The state’s Comptroller is siding with Governor Cuomo over concerns that federal health care cuts will damage New York’s budget, but he says the governor’s budget experts should have saved more money in rainy day funds.  Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says Cuomo is right to draw attention to over a billion dollars in potential health care cuts to the state, now that Congress and President Trump have postponed acting on a new federal budget. Congress failed to renew funding for the Disproportionate Share Hospital fund, which will impact public hospitals that serve the uninsured. It also did not renew the Child Health Plus program, which provides health care for around 330,000 children in the state. “I think the governor is right to sound the alarm,” said DiNapoli. “We have a tremendous amount of risk to our budget and our financial standing if action is not taken at the federal level.”  Both Cuomo and DiNapoli say the state is also facing a $4 billion dollar budget gap next year.  The Comptroller predicts that the state will “have to make some tough budget decisions”.

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PA House Pushes A New Hotel Tax Into Budget Discussions

HARRISBURG (WSKG) – After extensive closed negotiations, a House committee has moved a plan to close part of the $2.2 billion gap in Pennsylvania’s overdue budget.  It’s expected to be considered by the full chamber on Wednesday. Its key component is a five percent tax on hotel rates that would largely impact major cities, and is already being opposed by the hotel industry. The statewide rate is currently six percent. Nearly doubling it would only raise around $100 million this year, and roughly $160 million next year. But House Majority Leader Dave Reed said even deciding to move forward with the hotel tax is a significant step in a budget process where new revenue has been difficult to agree on.

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PA Lawmakers Resume Full-Time Budget Talks; No Agreements Yet

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — After a week of closed talks between legislative leaders and Governor Tom Wolf, the House and Senate are back in session together for the first time in months.  Leaders say they have a loose budget structure to work from now, though no one has officially agreed to anything. The House hasn’t yet held official discussions with members about the framework, but the Senate did Monday afternoon. After he emerged from a long, closed caucus meeting, GOP leader Jake Corman told reporters that roughly 10 pieces of legislation will need to pass in order to truly balance the budget. “I mean, look, we’re closer than we’ve been in some time, clearly,” he said. “We actually brought the members back in to discuss elements of things the governor and House leadership and I talked about last week.”

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PA Lawmakers Will Resume Session As Signs Of New Budget Emerge

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — GOP leaders say they’re optimistic they’ll have some kind of budget framework to present to members this week. The House and Senate are both scheduled to convene Monday. The potential deal comes after a week of closed negotiations between chamber leaders, as well as at least one rare in-person meeting with Governor Tom Wolf.  It’s unclear when or if major votes will happen. But in a memo sent to GOP members, House Leader Dave Reed said it “might be a good idea to pack for a long week.” He said he’s optimistic a deal is getting close.

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Jobless Workers Worry PA’s Lawmakers Have Forgotten Their Funding Woes

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — While Harrisburg is mired in balancing its overdue budget, employees in the state’s Unemployment Compensation program are getting concerned that a planned fix to their funding won’t come on time.  Hundreds of UC employees were laid off last year ago after funding wasn’t renewed over fears the program was ill-managed and cost too much. It caused mass delays for people trying to claim unemployment benefits. $15 million in stopgap money was passed in April, and has helped rehire some staff. It was only designed to last until roughly the end of the year; at the time, lawmakers said they’d immediately start on a permanent fix. There have since been some studies and hearings, but there’s still no bill–or even a known framework.

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Can Political Strife Hurt Business Prospects?

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — As Pennsylvania contends with a months-late budget and recently-downgraded bond rating, it’s also working hard to entice Amazon to set up a secondary headquarters in one of its cities. The situation raises a question: could the political turmoil deter businesses? Some pro-business leaders say in certain cases, it’s a possibility. Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, typically takes the position that a state’s tax structure, business incentives, and pension costs, among other things, determine whether companies will want to put down roots. He said the stalled budget and recent credit hit, which put Pennsylvania’s rating among the bottom five states–aren’t cause for panic.

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Stark Differences Persist As PA Senate Returns To Budget Talks

HARRISBURG (WSKG) – The state Senate is back in session, and is gearing up to respond to a budget package the House passed last week. Senate leaders aren’t revealing much about their plans–though they indicate they have fundamental disagreements with House leaders.   Meanwhile, the standoff is prompting credit rating agencies and budget experts to put the commonwealth on their watch lists. The Senate initially passed a revenue package in July. It balanced the $2.2 billion budget deficit on a combination of borrowing and new taxes–including ones on Marcellus Shale gas drilling and utilities.

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Stark Differences Persist As PA Senate Returns To Budget Talks

HARRISBURG (WSKG) – The state Senate is back in session, and is gearing up to respond to a budget package the House passed last week. Senate leaders aren’t revealing much about their plans–though they indicate they have fundamental disagreements with House leaders.   Meanwhile, the standoff is prompting credit rating agencies and budget experts to put the commonwealth on their watch lists. The Senate initially passed a revenue package in July. It balanced the $2.2 billion budget deficit on a combination of borrowing and new taxes–including ones on Marcellus Shale gas drilling and utilities.

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PA House Back At Work On Budget, But The Way Forward Remains Murky

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — After weeks of deserted Capitol hallways and quiet meetings between House members, the chamber is officially back in session–well over a month after the Senate passed a bipartisan revenue plan to balance the budget.  It’s now the House’s turn to make a move, but it remains unclear what that will be. House Majority Leader Dave Reed confirmed the chamber is taking up a controversial revenue proposal from an anti-tax bloc of the House GOP. It’s designed to fill budget gaps by raiding special state funds. House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin said it will likely get a vote in the full House this week, but it’s unclear if it will pass. House Speaker Mike Turzai is one of the chamber’s most prominent, powerful opponents of new taxes.

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PA House GOP Budget Faces Skeptic Democrats, Senate, And Governor

HARRISBURG (WSKG) — A group of House Republicans has unveiled a plan to balance the more than $2 billion budget deficit by, primarily, raiding dozens of state funds. Eighteen rank and file House Republicans said they spent most of the summer working on the plan, which they named “The Taxpayers’ Budget.”  It would transfer cash from the so-called “special” funds that help pay for a number of state programs and services. Supporters of the plan said they limited the transfers to funds with “inordinately high” balances. GOP Representative Dan Moul, of Adams County, said he thinks that money flies under the radar. “Until every source of reserve revenue is exhausted, we should not ask more of our taxpayers,” he said.

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After A Weeklong Stalemate, Still “No Agreements” On PA Budget Revenue

HARRISBURG (WSKG) – A state budget standoff has been going strong since lawmakers passed a spending plan Friday, but no revenue package to pay for it. As members return from their Independence Day recess, House and Senate Republican leaders don’t appear much closer to a consensus.      The budget that’s currently sitting on Governor Tom Wolf’s desk becomes law automatically at midnight on Monday–even if it’s not balanced. If that happens, credit rating agencies are already warning of possible downgrades. The conflict is coming down to differing views among GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate. In a strongly worded note to members, House Leader Dave Reed defended his caucus’ proposed revenue plan, saying that “to just walk away from legitimate concepts in favor of tax increase after tax increase is just not realistic or acceptable.”

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PA’s Still-Unbalanced Budget May Reduce Medicaid Spending

HARRISBURG (WSKG) – State lawmakers haven’t yet finished the state budget, which was due Friday. They have until midnight next Monday to pass one, otherwise the unbalanced spending plan lawmakers sent to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk last week becomes law–with or without his signature.  Though little is still known about how the final budget will be paid for, the spending plan makes it clear that lawmakers aim to look for some savings in health care. The single biggest spending reduction in the plan sitting on Wolf’s desk is a more than $350 million decrease in money allocated to Medicaid managed care. That’s a nearly 10 percent reduction to the massive fund, which gets cash from both the state and federal government. Medicaid managed care involves the state contracting with private care providers to serve patients more cheaply.

Breaking Down PA’s Budget: The Fiscal Landscape

HARRISBURG (WSKG) – State budgets have two basic parts: one outlines how much government will spend on its programs and expenses, and the other details where lawmakers are getting the money to pay for it.  Last year, the GOP-controlled legislature compromised on a $31.5 billion spending plan, and then took two more weeks to come up with a revenue framework to fit it. Democratic Governor Tom Wolf let it become law without his signature, declaring at the time that “our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the commonwealth’s structural budget deficit.” But a year later, that budget is $1.5 billion below estimates–the biggest shortfall since the 2009 recession.  “It is pretty clear now that any rational person would come to the conclusion that last year’s budget was not actually balanced,” said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale at a recent press conference. He and Treasurer Joe Torsella have said that money is now so tight, the state may have to take out outside loans as soon as next month–a move that will likely have an adverse impact on its already-mediocre credit rating.