Wolf Says Time is Running Out on Pennsylvania Budget Deal Before Downgrade

Governor Tom Wolf Talks Budget Issues

Governor Tom Wolf Talks Budget Issues

The credit rating agency Standard and Poor's lowered its rating on Pennsylvania's debt, citing the state's stubborn post-recession deficit and its history of late budgets, as well as Standard and Poor's belief that the pattern could continue.

S&P's report cites a litany of concerns about Pennsylvania's finances, including a almost decade-old structural deficit, habitually late budgets, and recent failures to make mandatory payments on time.

After missing payments tied to Medicaid reimbursements and the state's share of pension obligations to school districts, Pennsylvania's credit rating took a hit today.

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Lawmakers authorized almost $32 billion in spending on June 30 and have grappled ever since with how to fully fund it.

Wolf said Tuesday morning that he believes that leaders of the House and Senate Republican majorities are on board with getting a deal done and signed by October 1. "I have said repeatedly for three years that we must responsibly fund the budget with recurring revenues", he said.

Governor Tom Wolf said if budget negotiations haven't progressed by next week, he'll "be forced to take further steps to manage this situation".

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The budget bill also seeks a $1 billion lump-sum payment by selling rights to a portion of the state's tobacco settlement fund, which now receives about $350 million per year. "We would be using a significant amount of one-time funds to balance a 2.2 billion dollar hole". Governor Wolf and the Senate are at odds with the House on how to fully fund the budget that became law back in July, and reaction to the downgrade broke along those lines. But lawmakers have not yet agreed on how to pay for the budget and debt.

Democrats have accused anti-tax House Republicans for the downgrade, while House Republicans blame S&P and state officers who "refuse to pay bills". Let the governor know you noticed his lack of responsibility in crafting a responsible budget while those who owed tax payments continued to meet their obligations on time.

The House plan - developed largely by rank-and-file Republicans, including several midstate lawmakers - relies on $630 million in special fund transfers from state funds with excess or dormant monies. Neither has a say in approving the state budget.

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