Local lawmakers: Wolf 'lying' about education funding
York legislators are happy Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is releasing emergency funding, but no one is fully satisfied.
Wolf, a Democrat, scolded Republican lawmakers on Tuesday as he rejected parts of a $30.3 billion state budget plan that’s already a record six months overdue, but he freed up more than $23 billion in emergency funding, mostly for schools and social services.
"It's better than vetoing the whole bill, but I still think it was a good bill," Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said.
Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, was at the Capitol for the new conference and praised Wolf for "doing what is right."
"It's a positive because it ensures school districts can remain open ... and keeps pressure on the Legislature to (fully) pass a budget," he said.
Wolf said at the conference that the Republican-backed proposal falls short and lawmakers “simply left town before finishing their jobs.”
Wolf added that he was particularly frustrated because he felt the two sides were "so close" to passing a "reasonable budget" before the House adjourned prior to Christmas.
Schreiber and Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Hellam Township, both said they felt Wolf had the votes he needed to pass the budget he wanted, but Gillespie — who voted against that budget — said the House was in a holding pattern until the Senate passed a tax bill to pay for the proposed increases.
Saylor and Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, both said that Wolf is "lying" with that figure.
Point of contention: Throughout the impasse, Wolf has said one of his main objectives is a major increase in education funding. The Republicans' budget, he claims, underfunds education and will lead to a $95 million cut in its funding.Schreiber pointed out that Wolf has said he would be willing to sign bills on any of the three if they made it to his desk, but none have yet.Saylor said he doesn't believe Wolf has the votes necessary to raise taxes, especially without pension reform, property tax reform or the state selling its alcohol stores.
The budget provides a $210 million increase in education funding but does not provide a source of revenue for the $305 million in planned school construction revenue, according to Schreiber.
The program intended to reimburse schools for construction costs was previously suspended under former Gov. Tom Corbett, but Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf's press secretary, wrote in an email that Corbett had lifted that moratorium in 2014-15 and provided more than $306 million for school construction.
Grove said that program had been broken for years, and a new program that would fully reimburse school construction costs through a bond taken out next fiscal year had been agreed upon by all parties.
"I don't understand why (Wolf) is using (the school construction program) to arrive at that (budget cut)," Grove said. "The administration agreed to (the new program)."
Sheridan said the agreement they had come to involved a combination of funding the existing program and taking out the bond. He said because the Republicans' proposed budget is not balanced, the state would have to pay a higher rate for the bond, which would cost taxpayers more. .
County funds: County governments are believed to be funded as part of the passed budget, which York definitely needs, according to county spokesman Carl Lindquist.
Currently, the state owes York County about $40 million, Lindquist said, and any money the county receives will go toward paying off its $20 million line of credit, which is completely exhausted.
"Each month we hold onto that line of credit, our taxpayers are on the hook for about $16,600," Lindquist said. "So we want to get that paid down and return to normal operations."
He added that the county is still waiting to see the final numbers before it can fully know the impact.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org.