GOVERNOR WOLF ANNOUNCES LINE-ITEM VETOES; RELEASES EMERGENCY FUNDING
By Trevor J. Monk | December 29, 2015
Governor Tom Wolf today announced his intent to line-item veto certain appropriations in the Republican crafted budget bill, HB 1460, and release a portion of emergency funding to school districts across the state.
“I am going to exercise my constitutional right to line-item veto this ridiculous exercise in budget futility. I’m calling on our legislators to get back to Harrisburg – back to the work they left unfinished last week. In the meantime I’m vetoing their $95 million cut to education. I’m also vetoing other items that they don’t pay for,” said Gov. Wolf.
“At the same time, I’m allowing emergency funding for our schools to get out. I’m also letting funding go out to our human service agencies and to our counties. But this is on an emergency basis only,” stated Gov. Wolf.
“In doing this, I’m expressing the outrage that all of us should feel about the garbage the Republican legislative leaders have tried to dump on us,”
said Gov. Wolf. “This budget is wrong for so many reasons.”
Citing specific issues, Gov. Wolf went on, “First, it doesn’t balance. Even with the numbers presented to me by the Republicans before they ran out of town just before the Christmas holiday. This budget doesn’t add up. In fact it leaves a half a billion dollar hole for this year. And a $2 billion hole for next year.”
“Second, this pretend budget doesn’t make the investments a prudent state government should make, in things like education,” said Gov. Wolf. “This exercise in stupidity actually cuts education funding by $95 million compared to the draconian Corbett budgets. It does add a modest amount in basic education funding, but then it takes out over $300 million to be used for school construction.”
Gov. Wolf noted “Legislators also neglected to provide any funding for Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Lincoln University, Temple, and Penn School of Veterinary Science.”
“This budget is doubly frustrating because we were so close to a reasonable one,” said Gov. Wolf. “We need one that actually adds up, this year and next. We need one that fully funds the needs of our schools. We need one that really covers the cost of our state. We need to pass the budget that the Senate and House passed – Senate Bill 1073. And that I’m ready to sign.”
To close his formal remarks, Gov. Wolf said, “So, to the legislators elected to do the people’s business: let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to the work the people of Pennsylvania sent you here to do. Let’s get back to work to finish the job you almost finished last week.”
Gov. Wolf; Randy Albright, secretary of the Office of the Budget; and John Hanger, secretary of Planning and Policy answered questions from the press.
How much money are you releasing to schools?
Gov. Wolf explained that he is releasing money on an emergency basis to help schools stay open. He noted, “That does not relieve us of the obligation to get the budget.”
Are you increasing the legislature’s spending at all?
Gov. Wolf answered that the legislative spending for the House and Senate is “back to the levels of the Corbett years in the 2014-15 budget.”
How soon will the emergency funding go out to schools and human service agencies?
Gov. Wolf said, “The Pennsylvania Department of Education is poised to get that out as quickly as possible. We want to make sure that the kids are not suffering because of the lack of activity and the lack of responsibility on the part of the people in this building.”
Will you be sending money to social service agencies?
Gov. Wolf answered in the affirmative.
Will you continue to negotiate the $350 million for education?
Gov. Wolf stated, “We all agreed to that. That was the number that came out of the Senate in a 43-7 vote.” He noted that the $350 million investment was also included in the budget that was passed by the House on first consideration, second consideration, and not passed on third consideration because the vote never occurred.
Would you accept anything less than $350 million?
Gov. Wolf said, “That’s the deal we had.”
What will you do to get lawmakers back to the table?
Gov. Wolf explained, “I do not have the power to bring them back.” He continued, “What we have is the pressure on the part of the people who we serve – all of us – our bosses out there elected these folks to do a job.
They almost did it and then they didn’t.”
You have used full vetoes consistently, why the change of heart now?<div align=”right”><iframe width=”476″ height=”270″ src=”http://6abc.com/video/embed/?pid=1139309″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe></div>
Gov. Wolf said, “For six months I thought we were making some real progress, and we are now at the point where I don’t want to hold the children of Pennsylvania hostage for the inability of folks in Harrisburg.” He went on, “The solution is to get that compromise budget passed, which is what almost happened up through last week, and that is the real deal.”
Will furloughs be necessary with what you are doing here today?
Gov. Wolf said, “There will be furloughs and all kinds of problems if we do not get a real budget.” In closing, Gov. Wolf said, “Let’s get back to the room and get the budget, and depends on how soon the legislature gets back to work.”
Does the emergency spending include federal funds?
Sec. Albright explained that the final sending amount in the budget that Gov. Wolf will sign is roughly $23.39 billion. Sec. Albright added that all federal funds will be appropriated.
How much money for schools?
Sec. Albright stated that the funding that will be provided to schools includes the first six months of basic education subsidy payments and is roughly 45 percent of the total appropriation. “The balance of those funds will be blue-lined until the General Assembly can agree on a final spending package,” said Sec. Albright. He added that special education and Pre-K increases will remain in the budget.
With regard to the emergency funds going to education, how much will that cover?
Sec. Albright said, “The first six months of funding that would have been provided for in HB 1460 in the House bill that was sent to the governor will remain in the budget to provide emergency relief to schools.” He explained that the final six months of payments for the basic education subsidy will be withheld until a final budget agreement can be negotiated.
What about transportation funding?
Sec. Albright commented, “All of those appropriations will be fully funded…for the full year.”
Have you made the schools whole for the last six months?
Sec. Albright stated, “Not entirely. Had the framework budget been adopted, the total annual increase in the basic education subsidy would have totaled
$377 million.” He continued, “The budget that was put on his desk on Christmas Eve would only provide for a $100 million increase.” He noted that it is not fully funded at the amount of the final budget agreement that the administration hoped the House would vote on the Wednesday before Christmas.
How does this compare to last year’s education funding?
Sec. Albright said, “It would have been $100 million above the funding level for 14-15 for basic education.” Sec. Hanger added, “This budget that the governor has blue-lined has netted out a $95 million cut to education.” He continued “The Republicans have not funded $305 million of school construction funding that was in the 14-15 budget.”
How does that net to a cut?
Sec. Albright answered, “$306 million is the amount owed to school districts this year for school construction reimbursements. That line-item in the budget is now zero.” He continued, “The intention and the framework agreement is that we would go out and issue debt to fund a long-term funding plan for school construction projects. Not only in the current funding pipeline, but for projects that were awaiting funding over the last several years.” He added, “We cannot go out and issue that debt unless we solve the deep structural budget challenges that our current budget faces.” Sec.
Albright also explained that there is no way to fund the current year school construction obligations that have already been obligated to fund. Sec.
Albright continued, “If you total all those obligations together it’s actually a net cut of $95 million in the amount of funds that would be available to schools over the full fiscal year.”
Will this emergency funding take most of the schools out of problematic areas?
Sec. Albright said the administration expects that the emergency funding will provide enough funds for all school districts to reopen after the holiday. He noted, “The Philadelphia School District will be able to reopen as planned.”
Will this include the $10 million borrowing cost that has been incurred by schools?
Sec. Albright stated, “There was no provision that had been agreed to in the original bipartisan agreed-to budget to reimburse school districts and non-profits across the state who had to issue debt during the impasse.” He continued, “There had been a negotiated agreement to include $10.7 million to reimburse those interest costs. That is not included in HB 1460.” Sec.
Hanger noted that passing the budget that awaits a final vote in the House would release the $10.7 million.
What about the $7 billion in spending that was not approved?
Sec. Albright explained that it was funding across several line items. He specified that the blue-lined items include: six months of the Department of Corrections budget, six months of medical assistance programs, and “a lot of pet projects that lawmakers inserted in the budget that have been removed.”