Gov. Wolf on new House GOP budget-balancing proposal: “I feel it’s a bad idea. It’s nonsense.”

Gov. Wolf on new House GOP budget-balancing proposal: “I feel it’s a bad idea. It’s nonsense.”

Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, September 6, 2017/Categories: News and Views

In some of the strongest words used by Pennsylvania’s chief executive in the ongoing budget impasse, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday lambasted a new plan by House Republican members to balance the state’s books by using special fund transfers and other one-time sources of revenue rather than seeking revenue in the form of higher taxes and other recurring revenue sources.


“I feel it’s a bad idea. It’s nonsense,” he said to reporters following an unrelated event Wednesday afternoon. “The special funds, these are monies that are dedicated to programs that really make a difference in the lives of Pennsylvanians: volunteer fire companies, highways, 911 systems; those things would be jeopardized in the unlikely event that the majority of the House actually goes along with this. It’s irresponsible.”


Gov. Wolf stopped short of saying that there are no fund surpluses that can be used, but cautioned available funds in those accounts are nowhere near enough to balance the state’s $2.2 billion deficit, as Republican members claimed just a day earlier.


“Every dollar they’ve come up with—as far as I know—changes some program that benefits Pennsylvanians,” he said. “If the goal is to get no expense for government, we can do that, then we have no schools, we have no roads, we have no police, we have no judicial system and I don’t think that’s what the people of Pennsylvania want.”


In terms of what he would support, the governor reiterated a weeks-old message that he would like to see the House take up revenue legislation that was passed by the Senate in late July that would largely balance the previous fiscal year’s books by borrowing more than $1 billion from the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund and provide more than $500 million in recurring revenue for the current fiscal year in the form of changes to the Commonwealth’s gross receipts tax, a severance tax on natural gas extracts, and closing sales tax loopholes.


“I’ve signed off on it, I think the Democrats in both the House and the Senate have both signed off on it, we just need the Republicans in the House to sign off on it,” he said. “The Senate came up with a compromise six weeks ago and I’m fine with it. It’s not what I asked for, but it’s a compromise and I’m willing to accept that. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”


Meanwhile, the Commonwealth faces a new deadline of next Friday, at which time the balance of the state’s General Fund will drop below zero without additional help. Gov. Wolf said he is currently thinking of contingencies should that date come and go without a new revenue plan, something Treasurer Joe Torsella has told the administration is needed before any new money will be loaned from Treasury funds.


However, he did not provide many details other than saying his main hope is that Republicans in the House will conclude a responsible revenue plan prior to the deadline.


“I will manage the Commonwealth given the spending plan that both chambers overwhelming voted for, I will take the revenues that we have and I’ll take the spending plan they voted for, and I’ll manage that,” he said.


The House returns to voting session on September 11 when they are expected to internally discuss a plan that utilizes more than $2 billion in one-time revenue to balance the state’s books.


Whether that plan has enough votes in the House to be a viable option remained subject to open debate in the halls of the Capitol Wednesday.