PA Senate rejects proposed no-tax budget plan

Credit Aviator Dave  flickr

Credit Aviator Dave flickr

S&P Global Ratings downgraded Pennsylvania's credit rating Wednesday, citing a history of late budgets.

The lack of a budget is a failure to lead as the state Senate sides with Gov. Wolf against the taxpayer.

S&P's report cites a litany of concerns about Pennsylvania's finances, including a almost decade-old structural deficit, habitually late budgets, and recent failures to make mandatory payments on time.

Wolf said Tuesday morning that he believes that leaders of the House and Senate Republican majorities are on board with getting a deal done and signed by October 1.

The House plan - developed largely by rank-and-file Republicans, including several midstate lawmakers - relies on $630 million in special fund transfers from state funds with excess or dormant monies. And then, the House passed a plan that not only raided special funds, but included other phantom revenues from liquor and gaming legislation that has not been, and most likely will not be enacted, phantom revenues from unspecified lapsed funds, and phantom revenues from a proposal that was rejected by the courts past year.

In addition, House Republicans want to move about $400 million in so-called lapsed funds, or funds not spent in prior budgets, from various agencies.

But the general consensus from the House and Senate has been that that's a stretch.

Miskin said the House agrees there's a fiscal problem, but members still don't support tax increases. "We would be using a significant amount of one-time funds to balance a 2.2 billion dollar hole".

"We must reach an immediate resolution to the budget and today's news should be a wake-up call to come together and end this now".

"If an agreement has not progressed by next week", the governor's statement said, "I will be forced to take further steps to manage this situation".

Let's break down the current budget tale. "To us, this signals a lower rating".

The House GOP said the focus needs to be on tackling entitlement programs and corrections costs.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said inter-chamber negotiations are starting this week, and will probably last through next week. In statements, they said the legislature should compromise soon on a budget with stable funding.

"The significance of this downgrade is something that we grasp and is part of why the Senate worked to finalize a responsible budget package in July". Call your state senators and tell them to approve the state House's no-tax-increase plan. That means counting on another expansion of casino-style gambling in the nation's No. 2 commercial casino state, an expansion that lawmakers haven't even approved.

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