[toc]The month is drawing to a close, and the Pennsylvania legislature still does not have an answer to the budget shortfall.
The $2-billion problem still looms. The $200 million gambling expansion package is still in limbo.
With the Senate and House still butting heads over video gambling terminals (VGTs) and proposed tax cuts, lawmakers are now throwing out other ideas to fix the budget.
New budget proposal could shut out online gambling
The newest idea House Republicans are allegedly mulling amounts to searching for coins in the couch cushions. Basically, lawmakers want to use money from other, smaller funds to replenish the General Fund. Lawmakers in the Senate, meanwhile, proposed borrowing from future tobacco-related settlement payments.
Rather than enact new revenue streams, some House members want to pick pockets of funds with money to spare. The proposal quickly drew major critics.
According to City and State PA, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati did not have nice things to say about the situation.
“This isn’t governing; this is an embarrassment. We are certainly going to see darker days ahead as the dollars dwindle down. To my knowledge, the responsible thing for the Treasurer to do is not be out borrowing more money for money we don’t have.”
Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella agreed with Scarnati that constantly loaning to the General Fund is not a good plan.
“Treasury’s Short-Term Investment Pool is not a rainy-day fund – it is neither intended nor managed to be a backstop to the General Fund. As an investment fund, it is governed by law mandating only ‘prudent’ investments. An overly concentrated loan by the pool to the General Fund – at a time when the underlying budget is $2.2 billion out of balance, revenues are declining and we are still without an enacted revenue package – would represent a substantial investment risk.”
General Fund running perilously low on money
In past years, Torsella and the Treasury did loan the General Fund money. In fact, the state is just now finishing repayment on a $750 million Treasury loan.
Recent reports indicate the General Fund will run out of money halfway through next month. Future borrowing is not just a bad idea either. S & P recently downgraded the state’s credit rating because of its budget shortfalls the past few years. More loans with no budget solution would only make matters worse.
In the meantime, Gov. Tom Wolf says he expects House members to get their act together and reach an agreement on the Senate’s budget plan. He does not intend to borrow more in the meantime.
The good news for Pennsylvania online gambling supporters is that few people like the idea of borrowing from other funds to find some of the $2 billion the state needs.
The bad news is the state leglistature is meeting on Sept. 11, but in the meantime lawmakers appear no closer to a solution than they were in July.