Pa. Budget Talks Resume, Services to Poor Could Feel Pain of Impasse First

Observers say standoff could last awhile.

Representatives of Gov. Tom Wolf and state legislative leaders are expected to resume negotiations today over the state budget — but analysts say the impasse could last awhile, and that services helping the state’s poor and needy could be among the first to feel the pain of the standoff. 

You’ll remember that last week, Wolf vetoed the budget passed by the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania Assembly. That budget contained a small increase in education funding, but Republicans suggested the bill’s main feature is that it refused to raise taxes. Wolf’s own proposed budget included a new tax on drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale and a much bigger increase in school funding.

Also at play in the debate: The possibilities of pension reform for state workers and liquor privatization.

“Neither Wolf nor top Republican lawmakers are giving an inch publicly or taking responsibility for the stalemate, now three months after Wolf proposed his budget plan,” WTAE in Pittsburgh reports. “To override Wolf’s veto, Republicans need a two-thirds majority in both houses – a threshold that would require Democratic votes. The absence of a budget this early in the fiscal year was not expected to have an immediate effect on services because agencies can tap surpluses and special funds. But the situation could deteriorate if the impasse drags on.”

“The lack of a budget means delays in state payments to contractors, vendors and grant recipients. Nonprofit agencies that help the poor and disadvantaged could really feel the pinch starting later this month” the Citizens Voice reports. “The folks that are going to see the impact first are the human services agencies,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed.

Uri Monson, Montgomery County’s chief financial officer, told officials there that the county can fill in for the state and pay those expenses for a month.

“Monson said the county’s $98 million fund balance, projected to be roughly $40 million at the end of the year, is more than enough to make up for the month of July and pay those vendors the county contracts for human services,” the Times Herald reports. “Our intent is to have the county carry the costs for at least a month,” he said. “If the budget impasse is still ongoing as we approach the end of July we would reassess the situation and make a recommendation at that time for the months that follow.”

The really bad news in all of this? CBS Philly reports: “All signs point to a longer rather than shorter budget standoff.”