Just when we thought Pennsylvania lawmakers were at an impasse over the state’s budget funding package, the unthinkable happened.
This past Tuesday, the House voted to pass their funding package 102-88. Philly.com’s blow-by-blow account summarized what turned out to be a frantic-but-finessed effort to pass their proposed revenue plan.
“The GOP-controlled House worked late into the night Tuesday to narrowly approve a revenue package, 102-88, to help pay for the $32 billion budget that passed more than three months ago,” reporter Angel Couloumbis wrote.
Most of the funding for the package would, according to Philly.com, come from a $1.5 billion loan. The state will repay the loan with money the state won in their history tobacco company settlement.
Borrowing against tobacco settlement appeases conservatives
One of the main reasons previous attempts at passing a budget funding failed is the issue of taxes. House Republicans have long been stubborn to tax the state’s citizens. It wasn’t until the most recent versions of the funding package did the House try to borrow from other state funds in lieu of tax increases.
But even those alternative funding plans met their demise amid what seemed a rift-ridden House that couldn’t come up with a solution that made enough lawmakers happy. That is, until last Tuesday.
Tuesday’s approval a positive in a long string of negatives
One of the classic examples of the deep divide in both the House and Senate came in July. The Republican-controlled Senate “narrowly” approved a funding plan that included taxes on natural gas drilling, telephone bills, and electric and gas bills.
The bill went nowhere in the House. This kicked off more than three months of a near-comical back-and-forth.
Meanwhile, the clock was ticking because the state’s 2017-2018 budget was already in motion with the beginning of the new fiscal year.
While not unusual to pass a budget before passing funding, the Pennsylvania situation was of greater interest because the budget expected $200 million from a gambling expansion bill that lacked Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature.
Senate has final word on budget funding, gambling bill
The Senate will need to pass the funding package before it officially gains approval. The same goes for the gambling expansion package.
It’s important to note, though, that the budget has to pass first before the legislature can address the gambling expansion bill.
There’s no firm date on when we could get a decision on the gambling bill. However, Pennsylvania senator said, if everything happens just the right way, both the budget and gambling bill could go up for a vote by the end of the month.