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The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday night to fund the state budget it passed earlier this summer. That move came with time running short before the state is forced to make extremely difficult fiscal choices.
But the Senate and House won’t have long to get on the same page, as the state has been warned it will not be able to borrow further from the general fund, which means it will face a spending freeze beginning on Sept. 15.
If the chambers are negotiating in good faith and a deal seems imminent, State Treasurer Joe Torsella may allow the state to borrow more money from the general fund to keep everything running for a few extra days.
With its passage in the House, the budget funding plan will head back to the Senate, where it will be balanced with more popular proposals (in the legislature writ large as well as among Pennsylvanians). Those include specific tax increases and other revenue sources.
That’s how one Pennsylvania source described the gaming language in the plan the House passed.
The good news is the budget plan seems to commit to $225 million from gaming provisions. The bad news? It doesn’t outline what gaming measures would be adopted to meet that specific number.
According to one source, the gaming package would be voted on separately (this has always been a requirement for gaming provisions to become law). But that will only occur after the House and Senate come to an agreement on other revenue sources, according to legislative sources.
It’s been a long strange trip to get to this point, and we’re not done yet.
The House and Senate reached an agreement on the spending part of the state budget back in June. However, they left the more complicated funding aspects for a later date.
Even though the funding components were still blank, Gov. Tom Wolf signed the budget into law on July 11, fully expecting the House, Senate and his office to hash out the details in short order.
Negotiations seemed to be progressing over the summer, until early August, when House Republican leadership drew away from the table and took a hardline approach to the budget.
Over the past month, the demands have only grown more onerous, culminating with the current plan that largely raids other “dormant” funds for money to fund the budget, and insisting on proposals that are deemed to be poison pills in the Senate or in the governor’s office.