State Legislature aims to complete annual budget by end of November

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — November is typically a slow month in the State Capitol, but not this year. As lawmakers continue to solidify a state budget delayed by the pandemic, State legislators are determined to finish the job by the end of November.

Pa. Senator Kim Ward celebrated her history-making post as Senate Majority Leader last week, but with only one day to do so. Following her win, Senator Ward was preparing for her order of business.

“My very first budget meeting at 7 o’clock Friday night. Here we go,” Ward said.

Lawmakers passed a StopGap budget in June 2020, which funded most agencies at five-twelfths of last year’s numbers. They wanted more time to assess the impact of coronavirus. So what is the impact?

According to Representative Matt Bradford, democratic minority appropriations chairman, the impact has been extremely detrimental.

“In terms of revenue, in terms of demands on services, it’s been catastrophic,” Bradford said.

Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York), majority appropriations chair, was able to give that impact a specific number.

“We have somewhere in the neighborhood of a four billion dollar hole,” Saylor said.

Bradford estimates the hole at closer to $2.9 billion from Congress.

When asked by ABC27 if that was an assumption state he could make, Bradford doesn’t think so.

“I don’t think it is, unfortunately. Washington D.C. has failed us on numerous occasions in recent months,” Bradford explains.

Nov. 30 is the new deadline to finish the budget and there’s a battle brewing along the usual political fault lines.

“In a pandemic when people are unemployed, how do you raise taxes on people who are unemployed?” Saylor asked. “How do you raise taxes on businesses? And borrowing […] we’ve been doing a lot of that in this state. It’s time to stop borrowing and face our real budget issues,” Saylor said.

Bradford agrees with the Majority chair, saying a budget discussion should have happened months ago.

“We should have used the last five months to have a real discussion on revenues, expenditures, and how we balance them. So now we find ourselves just days before the artificially created November 30 deadline, and I don’t think we have any clue how they propose to do it,” Bradford said.

As a result, the fight over funding that Pennsylvanians typically see just before the Fourth of July seems destined for just after Thanksgiving. While lawmakers do have lots of options on the budget, none of them are good.

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