There’s a budget battle in Harrisburg

There’s a budget battle in Harrisburg

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday vetoed the budget passed by the Republican-dominated legislature, saying that it was laden with “gimmicks” that would expand the state’s deficit by $3 billion.

Republicans, for their part, say their budget contains no new tax increases, while directing an additional $200 million toward education.

Wolf, in particular, wants bigger increases in education funding — he rode to office on a tide of anger over predecessor Tom Corbett’s school funding cuts. But Republicans say thePennsylvania government has a long history of failing to pass budgets on time.

Under Corbett, the state had four consecutive years of on-time budgets. But before that, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell famously sparred with the GOP, missing budget deadlines by months.

“This is a return to a pattern last time we had a divided government,” saidMark Price, a labor economist for the Keystone Research Center.

Wolf’s office has issued a Q&A on what the budget impasse means for Pennsylvanians. The bottom line: The longer this goes, the bigger the effects.

In the near term,Pennsylvania government will go on as if nothing ever happened. Departments will be able to payvendors with funds they have left over from previous years’ budgets.

Public benefits like WIC won’t be cut. Neither will Medicare part A and B payments, along with a whole hose of social and medical service programs.

The state also says that it will continue to pay for items essential to public safety, like prisons and state parks.

Government employees will also continue to get paid, because the state Supreme Court in 2009 ruled that the state must pay them in the face of a budget impasse.

As that money runs out, the state will stop paying vendors — these include contractors and non-profits that provide some services. That category can include some construction contracts, and agencies like domestic violence counseling centers that receive state funding.

A review by Gettysburg College found that during the 2009 budget impasse, the United Way of Adams County was forced to draw down its entire credit line.