March 16, 2016

4th Senate, House Republican Budget Sent To Governor In The Face Of Veto Threat

Senate and House Republicans, in overwhelmingly party-line votes, took final action to send House Bill 1801 (Irvin-R-Centre) containing supplemental appropriations for FY 2015-16 (Senate- 31 to 18, House- 128 to 63), the Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 1327 (Peifer-R-Pike) (Senate- 30 to 19, House- 120 to 71) and the bills funding state preferred universities and sent them to the Governor for his action.
Gov. Wolf said Wednesday afternoon he would veto the bills, but we don’t know at this point if that means the entire bills or whether he will use his line-item veto.
House Republicans and some Democrats finally reached the required two-thirds vote and passed funding for the state-related universities-- Penn State, Pitt, Lincoln and the University of Pennsylvania in Senate Bills 912, 913, 914, 915 and 916-- and sent them to the Governor for his action.
Gov. Wolf threatened to veto these bills as well.
This entire package of bills put together by Senate and House Republicans represents a $30 billion FY 2015-16 General Fund budget restoring many, but not all, of the line-item vetoes Gov. Wolf made in the $30.2 billion Republican budget approved in December.
Republicans say the budget requires no additional tax revenue and increases funding for basic education and nonpreferred appropriations to state-related universities.
Gov. Wolf and Senate and House Democrats say the Republican budget is out-of-balance by at least $290 million, would create a year end deficit of more than $1.6 billion in 2016-17 and would force Pennsylvania “off the fiscal cliff.”
Specifically, Democrats say, it does nothing to fund state programs administered by counties.
Click Here for a copy of the line-by-line General Fund spreadsheet by House Republicans.
This is the fourth budget Republicans have sent to the Governor since June 30 of last year.   (Click Here for the timeline.)
The General Fund budget was vetoed entirely by the Governor last July.  A stopgap budget package in September was vetoed by the Governor in its entirety.  And finally, $6.8 billion of the General Fund budget passed in December was line-item vetoed by the Governor.
In between those budgets, the House failed in 14 attempts to override the Governor’s veto of the June 30 budget.
And now we have budget #4.
Governor’s Veto Threat
Gov. Wolf issued this statement just after the Senate vote on the Republican budget: “Despite repeated efforts by my administration to work with Republican leaders to find compromise, including over the last couple days, Republican leaders are once again insistent on passing another irresponsible and unbalanced budget that does not fund our schools or fix the deficit.
“This is further indication that the Republican leaders have no intention of working together with me to produce a final budget. This is the third time they have attempted to pass an unbalanced budget with no consultation with the administration. This is simply unproductive and a waste of taxpayer resources.
“The math in the latest version still does not work. Even using the Republicans’ questionable math and assumptions, the budget creates a $1.6 billion deficit that will prompt massive cuts to education, teacher layoffs, higher property taxes, and cuts to vital programs for seniors. This budget not only does nothing to address Pennsylvania’s challenges, but by continuing to kick the can down the road, it further exacerbates our problems,
“In its current form, I will veto this budget, and I urge Republicans in the legislature to stop the partisan games and come back to the table to negotiate a final budget that funds our schools and eliminates the nearly $2 billion deficit. I look forward to working with both parties in the legislature to finally end this impasse, fix our schools, and eliminate the deficit.”
In later comments, Gov. Wolf said specifically he will veto funding for state-related universities because there is no revenue to support it.
Senate Republican Comments
Senate Republican Leaders offered the following statements on the passage of the budget, which returns to the House--
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson):  “Today’s vote took an important step to close the 2015-16 budget impasse which has now entered its ninth month.  I am pleased that we are finally completing this budget year without raising taxes on Pennsylvania’s hardworking residents.  The supplemental budget passed by the Senate today will provide our schools, agriculture programs, critical access hospitals and many other worthwhile programs with the funding they need to keep their doors open.   Gov. Wolf’s desire to create a crisis by line item vetoing funding last December was completely inappropriate.  It is long past time to close the 2015-16 budget and move on to working to provide a timely and responsible budget for 2016-17.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre):  “We are in an emergency situation. Let’s stop looking at what this budget isn’t and focus on what it is. This budget is $200 million new dollars for education and keeps our schools from closing their doors. It restores the funding for our agricultural community and means Penn State won’t lay off 1,100 employees. Rural hospitals receive their funding as do regional cancer centers, poison control facilities and more. This plan gets our communities the money they desperately need without the tax increases the Governor so desperately wants.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Majority Chair Pat Browne (R-Lehigh):  “We cannot continue down the path we are on where schools are facing the real prospect of being forced to close and where vital nonprofits and social service organizations are unable to keep their doors open and operating. We have a fundamental and constitutional responsibility to provide funding to these critical state programs and services. This supplemental 2015-16 appropriations budget restores most of the Governor’s line-item veto cuts from December and provides increased funding for education, restores funding to correctional facilities and social service agencies and does so without raising taxes on our hard-working families and job creators.”
Senate Majority Whip John Gordner (R-Columbia):  “I am pleased the Senate has acted to restore funding to our schools, agricultural community, rural critical access hospitals and other vital programs.  This responsible budget reverses the punitive cuts inflicted by Governor Wolf through his line-item vetoes and at the same time increases public school funding by $200 million without raising a single tax.”
General Fund Bill Contents
House Bill 1801 (Irvin-R-Centre) includes supplementation appropriations for--
-- Dept. of Agriculture - $83.8 million
-- Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources - $2.25 million Heritage Parks Program
-- Dept. of Corrections - $940.9 million
-- Dept. of Education - $10.7 million for community colleges, $3 million for Regional Community College Services
-- Dept. of Environmental Protection - does NOT restore $900,000 for Sewage Facilities Grants
-- Senate/House - $51.1 million
Overall, the FY 2015-16 Republican General Fund budget includes these increases:
-- Community Colleges: $10.7 million increase in line item
-- Community College Capital Fund: same $226.4 million
-- Regional Community Colleges Services: $3 million, $1 million more than FY 2014-15
-- Judiciary: $25 million increase
-- General Assembly: $496,000 less.
Related Story:
Commonwealth Court Upholds Ability Of A Governor To Line-Item Veto Fiscal Code Bill