By Rocco Pugliese, President
These days I wake up every morning and I think I am Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day! With each passing day, the 2015-16 fiscal budget remains incomplete and we hear the same rhetoric and witness the same machinations by the Governor and legislators in Harrisburg while nothing truly changes.
But wait, didn’t Governor Wolf just present his budget proposal for next fiscal year this past Tuesday? The answer is – yes he did; even though there is still no completed budget for this current fiscal year. And why is there no completed 2015/16 budget – because the Governor blue lined $6 billion from the $30.2 billion budget he signed into law late last year.
As for the Governor’s 2016-17 budget proposal – It Is Dead. There is no way the General Assembly will pass a budget that contains a $3 billion increase in funding that requires tax increases on Pennsylvania citizens; especially in an election year. The term, Dead On Arrival comes to mind. Picture this – budget hearings begin next week that will go into March with agencies and higher education institutions seeking more money despite the fact that the current fiscal year’s funding is still uncertain for a number of these same agencies and institutions.
Here are things that I can state unequivocally: unless there is a “Miracle on 3rd and State Street”, the 2015/16 budget is a done deal (there is no Kris Kringle in Harrisburg). What does that really mean from a funding perspective: 1) the state relateds may very well be zero funded, which potentially means above average tuition increases that will hurt parents and students attending those higher education institutions; 2) school districts stating that a number of public schools may run out of money by April, forcing those schools to close; and, 3) social service organizations that have been burdened to increase services will have to turn those in need away.
So what we have is a political test – there are those who believe the Governor will be very active in this year’s general election by funding opponents to challenge republicans; while the republicans will be diligently working to increase their majorities in the State Senate and State House of Representatives.
In conclusion, we are truly in a situation that, quite candidly, many of us have never seen before. A situation that we have never experienced in State Government with divisive rhetoric and partisanship way beyond what we’ve seen in prior years. So, if anyone tells you that there is a quick resolution to the impasse, they are absolutely speaking in falsehoods; because there is no way to predict how this will all turn out.
So, if you happen to run into Kris Kringle or Bill Murray, ask them to pay us a visit here in Harrisburg!