Finance - July 21, 2017

As the Budget Turns

Lawmakers are returning to Harrisburg for another weekend work session on a budget that is now 21 days late. The House is scheduled to return Saturday at 11 AM. Though there does not seem to be an agreement in place, the plan seems to be that legislators will work on pieces of it in an attempt to move toward some kind of agreement.  Off the table for House Republicans, according to House Speaker Mike Turzai, are no new broad-based tax increases. Without tax increases, legislators need to find other ways to raise revenue. Current proposals just aren’t covering the gap. Also left in the dust are the fourteen state universities, community colleges and the four state-related universities; whose non-preferred appropriations are languishing along with this budget deal.

Recent rumblings are that legislature is considering gambling expansion; including video gaming terminals in bars, taverns and clubs and “satellite casinos” in certain areas. Though historically, that idea hasn’t seen too much favor due to the fear of competition with traditional casinos. Senate Minority Leader, Jay Costa, and House Minority Leader, Frank Dermody, penned an op-ed for yesterday, in which they call for sustainable revenues that must include “a fair, statewide excise tax on Marcellus shale drillers.” They also highlighted the legislature’s ability to work together on other important issues such as pension reform, medical marijuana, and work on the opioid crisis, as evidence that some compromise can be reached. Senate Appropriations Chair, Pat Browne, has declined to comment on any specifics and would only say that conversations are continuing and that each caucus, basically, has its own priorities. Get your popcorn ready, the budget drama continues…