HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM/AP) — The Pennsylvania state budget was due last Thursday, June 30. It is still not done as of Tuesday, July 5, and it will not be finished for at least a couple more days.
Lawmakers left town for the Fourth of July weekend with no spending plan. abc27 is told now that they will come back late Wednesday afternoon and hope to have an actual budget vote on Thursday, July 7 — a week late, but mostly no harm, no foul.
Thursday “might be a strong possibility for a lot of budget action,” a spokesperson for the majority Republicans in the state Senate told reporters in a Tuesday morning email update. Erica Clayton Wright, press secretary for Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said that could change “based on discussions and staff preparations.”
The state House, whose schedule is also controlled by majority Republicans, planned to return to session Wednesday afternoon and also posted public notice of floor sessions to start Thursday and Friday mornings.
Negotiations continue and are progressing, politicians tell abc27. The state has a record surplus this year, and figuring out how to spend it has caused some snags.
Democratic House Appropriations Chairman Matt Bradford says there is now mostly agreement on an increase in education funding, which was a sticking point, but he said a big problem has been an attempt by Republicans to hold up funding for the University of Pittsburg because of research it does with fetal tissue.
“The dollars are truly for our state students going to our state-related universities. Unfortunately, certain right-wing websites have made an issue out of largely whole cloth and conflated and a bunch of different issues and somehow decided it was appropriate to tie and frankly hold hostage Pennsylvania students to their desire to defund Pitt,” Bradford said.
State Representative Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland) says the Pitt funding is something she’s looking at in the deal.
“You get a hundred percent, you swear an oath that you’re not performing these practices and it’s a win on both sides,” said Keefer.
Lawmakers say the program at Pittsburgh complies with all laws and State Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa says the program is “groundbreaking research” that is “improving the lives of people every day.”
The University of Pittsburgh released a statement last week regarding the budget, saying “The University of Pittsburgh devotes every dollar of the general support appropriation it receives from the state to help support a tuition discount for Pennsylvania students and families. We’re optimistic the legislature will preserve this investment in our students.”
As far as finalizing a budget by Thursday, Bradford said his fingers are crossed that that plan works and Costa believes a deal could be done by Friday.
Among possible features of a deal could be a cut in the state’s 10% tax on corporate income along with more money for nursing homes, county-administered mental health counseling programs, child care subsidies, and property tax or rent subsidies for the elderly and disabled.
Negotiators are also focusing on Wolf’s new charter school regulations and limits on third-party funding to help counties pay to run elections.
Lawmakers’ inability to pass a budget may eventually halt some state payments, although that sort of fallout likely will take several weeks to affect government services.
In a long-term stalemate, the state must make debt payments, cover Medicaid costs, issue unemployment compensation payments, keep prisons open and pay workers.
But at some point, the Wolf administration could have to postpone payments to utilities, insurers, suppliers, and landlords, and delay expenditures on such discretionary items as tax credits and grants.
A week’s delay would not have significant consequences for most Pennsylvanians, though.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.