Details of GOP’s budget bill in Pennsylvania’s Legislature
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Republican lawmakers are advancing spending legislation that could arrive on the desk of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf by the end of Wednesday. Wolf threatened to veto it. Republicans say it’s designed to resolve a partisan fight that’s lasted two-thirds of the way through the state government’s fiscal year. A look at the situation:
THE BIG PICTURE
The appropriations bill scheduled for votes Wednesday is an approximately $6 billion spending plan that Republicans say is designed to complete a $30 billion spending package. The package includes $578 million in aid to universities — Penn State, Temple, Pitt, Lincoln and the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school — that passed the House on Wednesday. It was unclear whether Wolf would sign the university-funding bills.
HOW IT GOT HERE
In December, a Wolf-supported bipartisan agreement collapsed after House GOP leaders pulled their support. That had involved a $30.8 billion spending package and a tax increase of more than $1 billion that Wolf had sought to resolve a long-term deficit and to begin wiping out 2011’s budget-balancing funding cuts to public schools.
As a fallback, Republican majorities passed the main appropriations bill in a $30.3 billion budget package, despite Wolf’s opposition. Wolf vetoed $6.3 billion from the $30.3 billion package, primarily for prisons, public schools and Medicaid reimbursements to insurance companies. University subsidies remained stalled in the House until Wednesday.
Republicans say a tax increase is unnecessary to make the $30 billion budget package balance. It would rely on a projected $30.9 billion in tax collections, plus an expected $50 million casino license fee, before subtracting more than $1.3 billion in refunds.
HOW IT BALANCES
The plan would use about $260 million in reserves or unused money, while the state would forgo a $305 million payment it regularly makes for its portion of school construction projects and delay more than $200 million in payments for Social Security taxes for school employees and reimbursements to counties for child welfare costs.
It also counts about $150 million in savings in some Medicaid programs, in part because of enrollees becoming covered by broadened federal eligibility guidelines that carry a higher federal cost-sharing rate.
The appropriations bill carries just over $3.1 billion for public school instruction and operations, which would bring the total appropriated for the year to $5.9 billion, a $200 million increase. Wolf had originally sought a $400 million increase, and the bipartisan deal that collapsed had contained $350 million.