Coronavirus forces ‘unusual’ dual state budgets

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Covid-19 is a novel coronavirus, which means no one has ever seen it before. You could say the 2020 Pennsylvania budget is also novel.

The governor and lawmakers are trying to balance the books without knowing what’s on the ledger sheet.

“I think all of us are struggling to know what the fiscal situation is gonna look like during the course of the whole next fiscal year,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “So we are doing some unusual things.”

Unusual as in a 5-month, no-tax-increase, stopgap budget for now and a 7-month completion budget later. Novel — lawmakers and the governor are also working to get it done in the coming days, well ahead of the June 30 deadline.

Wolf announced that Pennsylvania’s ability to test for coronavirus is increasing while its infection rate is decreasing. Social distancing and masks are working, Wolf insists.

The governor credits the sacrifice of citizens. “I thank each and every one of you for doing your part.”

On Friday, 18 Pennsylvania counties will progress from the yellow phase to green. How can other counties join them? The state health secretary said that declining infection rates for two straight weeks is key.

“At least two weeks since the incubation rate is two weeks, and if [yellow counties] have continued decreasing rates of infection, then they’ll be considered to go to green,” said Dr. Rachel Levine.

Some businesses across the state have gone green, and gone rogue, without Wolf’s green light. The governor has also seen people ignore distancing and masking altogether.

So what’s the governor going to do about that?

“Ultimately, what’s gonna work is not enforcement,” Wolf said. “What’s gonna work is each and every individual Pennsylvanian, each and every business owner, doing everything they can to protect employees and customers and each other.”

The governor has been criticized throughout the pandemic for not holding live press conferences in front of reporters. He said that ends Friday when Dauphin County, home to the state capitol, advances into the yellow phase.

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