July 3, 2014

Scorecard On Budget: Senate, House Left Town, Corbett Still Wants Pension Reform

At best, the FY 2014-15 state budget is still a work in progress.  The Senate and House both passed a General Fund budget-- House Bill 2328 (Adolph-R-Delaware)-- to beat the June 30 budget deadline, but instead of signing the bill right away, Gov. Corbett said he’s doing a line-by-line review.
Click Here for a copy of the line item spreadsheet.  Click Here for the budget balance and transfers sheet.
At a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Corbett said all options are on the table-- including vetoing the budget passed by the General Assembly to get meaningful action on pension reform by the House and Senate.
The Governor has until July 11 to sign House Bill 2328.
He said he was disappointed House members used a procedural maneuver Tuesday to send a pension reform bill-- House Bill 1353-- back to Committee which he said disguise the fact they can’t stand up to special interests (unions) and vote on pension reform.
In response, the House late Wednesday reported House Bill 1353 out of the House Human Services Committee, but it remains on the House Calendar.
For its part the Senate Monday passed a limited pension reform bill-- Senate Bill 922 (Brubaker-R-Lancaster)-- moving elected officials off of a defined benefit program, but it too saw no action in the House.
The Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 278 (Baker-R-Tioga)--  that usually accompanies the budget this year became a catch-all for changes to education programs, taxes, regulating conventional oil and gas wells and lots of other changes in law that have not gone through the Senate and House in other legislative vehicles.
A detailed summary and House Fiscal Note are available.
On Monday the Senate made 66-pages of changes to House Bill 278 and passed the bill, but only after a tie vote on the Senate Floor was broken by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) changing his vote.   The Senate then recessed to September 15 putting pressure on the House to finish the remaining budget work.
Tuesday the House upended a deal Senate Republicans thought they had with House Republican leadership on the provisions in the bill by removing language related to the Bank Shares Tax (which helped balance the budget), City Revitalization and Improvement Zone, extra funding for the Allentown school district and authorizing the enactment of a cigarette tax in Philadelphia.
Back on the House Floor several provisions in the bill were challenged and an attempt was made to suspend the rules to amend the bill again to impose a moratorium on further leasing of DCNR lands for drilling and eliminating a part of the bill that would regulate conventional oil and gas wells differently than Marcellus Shale wells.
A challenge was also raised on the constitutionality of the bill saying the legislative process used to cobble the bill together with so many different, unrelated provisions was unconstitutional, but that effort failed by a vote of 117 to 83.
The House then voted 121 to 78 to return the bill to the Senate which must now make a decision on whether to concur with the House changes or insist on its own version.
As a final order of business the House amended and returned to the Senate House Bill 1177 (Lucas-R-Crawford) which would authorize Philadelphia to adopt a $2/pack tax on cigarettes, the same Philadelphia cigarette tax the House removed from the Fiscal Code bill earlier.
The House then adjourned Wednesday to September 15, unless sooner recalled by the Speaker.
Capitolwire.com is reporting this morning the Senate is likely to come back to session on July 7 to finish work on both House Bill 278 and House Bill 1177, but according to statements by a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader’s Office there was no indication what it might do.   The spokesperson did say the provisions related to Bank Shares Tax must get done in some vehicle.
Revenue Declines
Pennsylvania collected $2.8 billion in General Fund revenue in June, which was $23.7 million, or 0.8 percent, more than anticipated, Secretary of Revenue Daniel Meuser reported late Wednesday.
Fiscal year 2013-14 General Fund collections totaled $28.6 billion, which is $508.8 million, or 1.7 percent, below estimate.  The Independent Fiscal Office projected a year-end deficit of $572 million.
The Gaming Control Board Wednesday reported a drop in June slot machine revenues of 6 percent compared to June 2013 and slot machine gross revenue for the recently completed Fiscal Year was 4.5 percent lower than gross revenue generated last year.
In the 12-month period that ended June 30, 2014, slot machine gross revenue was $2,319,890,598 compared to $2,428,887,430 during the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year.
Today’s Budget NewsClips:
White House: PA Lost Out On Expanding Medicaid