PA Senate Hits Restart On Budget Negotiations

Harrisburg-Capitol-steps2

Harrisburg-Capitol-steps2

"For months, I have warned that a credit downgrade was looming", Gov. Tom Wolf said in an emailed statement.

S&P's report cites a litany of concerns about Pennsylvania's finances, including a almost decade-old structural deficit, habitually late budgets, and recent failures to make mandatory payments on time.

Pennsylvania's credit rating is taking a hit, as the budget stalemate continues in Harrisburg.

Lawmakers authorized almost $32 billion in spending on June 30 and have grappled ever since with how to fully fund it.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 43-7 to non-concur the revenue plan created by House Republicans and to create a conference committee to create a new plan. "I have said repeatedly for three years that we must responsibly fund the budget with recurring revenues".

But the general consensus from the House and Senate has been that that's a stretch.

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The downgrade means Pennsylvania will pay more to borrow money: an estimated $10.0 million for every billion dollars the state borrows or refinances.

Wolf, who allowed the imbalanced budget to pass without a signature, vowed on Monday that legislatures would agree on a spending plan before October 1. "My budget proposal was balanced, cut more than $2 billion in expenditures and consolidated agencies, while also fixing the deficit".

"Meanwhile, the House Republicans were leading the way as they uncovered billions - yes, with a 'B"! - in extra funds. Their letter said further borrowing "creates an economic "moral hazard" that effectively increases the long-term risks to the commonwealth's finances" and that they were therefore "disinclined to support additional lending" to the state's General Fund.

"The Senate understood the need for urgency and acted responsibly in July to fully fund the budget and enact recurring revenues to eliminate the deficit, and my administration has tried for weeks to hold off a downgrade. We agree with S&P's concerns about the need for stability in our financial plans to address the ongoing structural deficit".

They said the Treasury should let the state keep spending despite the funding gap, because "revenue is still coming in".

Governor Wolf declared the downgrade a "wake-up call". Neither has a say in approving the state budget.

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