It appears that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and state legislators have come to a tentative agreement on the spending plan for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
The approximately $32 billion budget currently includes no broad-based tax increases, but the Governor has indicated that he is not inclined to sign the budget without some plan in place to address taxes and revenues in the very near future.
Revenues fell short for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, and with the new fiscal year beginning on July 1, lawmakers are struggling to cover an anticipated $2.2 billion shortfall for the coming year. Some key expenditures lawmakers need to find a way to pay for, and options for doing so, include:
Additional funding for public schools ($100 million)
Additional funding for county-based human services ($10 million for programs designed to combat the state's drug and opioid epidemic)
Restoration of $50 million that Governor Wolf had proposed cutting from state aid for school transportation
Restoration of a $30 million annual state subsidy to the University of Pennsylvania's veterinary school
Expanded legalized gambling by adding video slot machines in airports, bars, taverns and other special clubs
Borrowing against future payments from the multi-state tobacco settlement, likely in the form of a bond issue
What does not appear to be likely is pension reform, consolidation of state agencies and privatization of the state-owned liquor system.
While a framework may be in place, there is still plenty of work to be done.
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