To ensure that critical government services are not impacted if the state budget is not passed on time, Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) will introduce legislation that would establish a special fund to maintain their operations.
“When Governor Wolf vetoed the state budget in June and vetoed a stop-gap budget we sent him in September, schools, social services agencies and other organizations were forced to take out loans and, in some cases, shut their doors,” Stefano said. “They should not be used as hostages because of an impasse, particularly since the state is still collecting tax dollars. Core government services must be guaranteed funding.”
Stefano’s bill would establish a Budget Impasse Critical Services Fund to ensure that certain line items in the budget will continue to receive state appropriations at their current level if the budget is not passed by the June 30 deadline. Funding would continue for programs under the Department of Human Services, appropriations for local school districts and higher education grants and various expenses of the Pennsylvania State Police.
Stefano’s bill would also impose a travel ban for state officials and legislators, freeze all publicly funded websites and social media accounts with editorial content from elected officials and prohibit legislators from collecting expenses and per diems during the impasse, without the ability to collect them retroactively.
Stefano said of these provisions, “Two things surprised me during this year’s budget battle. First, because we were in session, the cost to the state actually increased because of the increased use of per diems by members and the need to reimburse for hotels, travel and meals while in Harrisburg. The other was that we seemed to spend more time coming up with clever ways of attacking those who disagreed with our ideas than actually working to end the impasse. It seems that nothing gets done without consequences, so these provisions should provide that pressure to get the job done.”
Stefano concluded, “With a Governor bent on raising taxes on all Pennsylvanians to increase spending and a legislature committed to holding the line on taxes and spending, budget impasses seem to be likely in the next several years. The least we can do as a legislature is ensure that partisan politics in Harrisburg doesn’t have a negative effect on the most vulnerable in our society. This legislation achieves that goal while still keeping the pressure on our elected leaders to actually do their job and pass a budget on time.”
The Co-sponsorship Memo can be seen here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20150&cosponId=19484
CONTACT: Ben Wren (717) 787-7175