March 9, 2016

Senate Republicans Open Another Front On Payments During Budget Impasses

Sen. Patrick Stefano (R-Fayette) Monday introduced Senate Bill 1129 that would specifically provide for the payment of certain budget line-items during a budget impasse.
During a Senate hearing in February, State Treasurer Timothy Reese urged the General Assembly to enact new law to help guide decisions on making payments during an impasse.
Gov. Wolf requested the State Treasurer to make about $37.5 billion in payments during the budget impasse that ended the last week of December with the Governor’s line-item vetoes.
After that action, the State Treasurer continues to make difficult decisions on whether to make payments requested by the Governor above the line-item veto amounts, for example for the Department of Corrections at the beginning of March.
Sen. Stefano’s legislation would create the Budget Impasse Critical Services Fund would fund programs under the Department of Human Services and appropriations for local school districts and higher education assistance grants.
In order to qualify as a “critical service,” the line item must have received an appropriation during the prior fiscal year.  
Programs and initiatives that receive funds through the State Lottery Appropriations, Tobacco Settlement Funds Appropriations and Motor License Appropriations will continue to be receive an appropriation in the same amount from those funds as during the prior fiscal year.
Beginning on July 15 of the fiscal year for which a budget has not been enacted, the Office of the Budget will determine the aggregate amount received from the General Fund for the named programs during the prior fiscal year.
The State Treasurer will then transfer from the General Fund 8.33 percent of that amount by the 15th of each month for as long as the budget impasse continues. Each program shall, on a monthly basis, receive 8.33 percent of the amount that it received during the prior fiscal year.
When the budget impasse ends, the amount that the critical services provider has received from the fund during the impasse will be reconciled against the total amount it is entitled to receive for entire fiscal year.
Under the act, Commonwealth officials and employees are not permitted to travel in the performance of official duties, except in an emergency situation, during the impasse.
Members of the General Assembly may not collect per diems or submit expenses during the impasse, and, once the impasse is resolved, retroactive payment of those per diems and expenses is forbidden.
Legislators are also barred from producing and distributing any communication materials that are paid for by the Commonwealth.
All websites and social media accounts maintained by State employees will be frozen until the impasse is resolved.
A sponsor summary is available online.