HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/WHTM) — Pennsylvania’s new fiscal year will begin without a state budget in place, as Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and top Republican lawmakers planned to work through Thursday’s deadline to hammer out a spending plan that’s details were still largely being kept secret.
Even if lawmakers came to an agreement during the day on Thursday, they would still have to get it into bill form and get it passed by both chambers — something that won’t happen in a day. But as of noon on Thursday, they still didn’t have a deal.
“Our staff is going to need to respond rather quickly to begin putting the agreement into legislative language so we can start moving the budget,” Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, said.
“The General Appropriations Act is probably an 800-page bill, so that takes time in and of itself,” Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Greg Thall said.
Negotiators have yet to fully brief rank-and-file lawmakers on any sort of agreement or publish the details of hundreds of pages of budget-related legislation that typically underpin such a spending plan.
Without new budget legislation signed into law by Friday, the state will lose the authority to make some payments, although a stalemate must typically last several weeks before any effect on services is felt.
Pennsylvania House Finance Committee member Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland) tells abc27 lawmakers still don’t have a balance sheet.
“Today’s (June 30th), that maybe should’ve taken place last week,” said Keefer.
“It’s budget season, crazy things happen,” said Democratic House Appropriation Committee member Patty Kim (D-Dauphin). “We’ll get it done.”
The sticking point, abc27 has been told, is the amount of money Wolf wants to give education. Senate Republicans are apparently balking at that number.
Negotiations in closed-door talks revolve around a substantial amount of new aid for public schools — albeit under half the amount Wolf sought in his February budget proposal — and various concessions by the Democratic governor to Republican lawmakers who control the Legislature.
Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, also a Democratic member of the House Appropriations Committee, says she thinks “the governor recognizes this is his legacy” as he pushes to wrap up his final budget before leaving his second term.
“It’s part of what he’ll leave as a final thought for many Pennsylvanians when they think about what he stood for and what he accomplished in the commonwealth,” said Rep. Fiedler (D-Philadelphia).
New aid for public schools will land around $800 million, or about 9% more. That is short of the almost $1.8 billion more that Wolf had initially requested for instruction, school operations, and special education.
The new aid will include substantial sums for school security upgrades and school counselors or psychiatrists.
In exchange, Republican lawmakers sought concessions on various policy goals that Wolf had unilaterally pursued over Republican objections.
Those include Wolf’s plan to toll up to nine interstate bridges and subject charter schools to stronger ethics, accounting, and admissions standards. Republicans also pressed for an agreement on legislation that would restrict third-party funding of elections.
The budget is expected to land in the $43-44 billion range, a more than $10 billion increase compared to five years ago.
Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D-Philadelphia) says she remembers when the state had no money and still got budgets done, but this year it’s different.
“Now we have nearly $12 billion surplus and we’re still not done the budget, and it’s June 30.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.