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Politics & Government

Last Budget Meeting Was In December, Lawmaker Says

Governor Tom Wolf
90.5 WESA

The state hasn’t had a full spending plan for more than eight months, but top lawmakers haven’t yet had a budget meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration in 2016, the House Appropriations Committee chairman said Thursday.

“We haven’t met since December,” said Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware). “And we should have been.”

In December, Wolf partially rejected a Republican-crafted spending plan sent to his desk right before the holidays. The vetoed funding for corrections, schools, agriculture, and other programs has prompted recriminations from both sides of the aisle, as well as a number of legal quandaries. The state Treasury is advancing unauthorized funds to the state prisons system in an effort to protect the safety of the commonwealth. This week, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association asked a state court to force state funding to flow to schools over and above what is in the budget approved by the governor.

A fundamental disagreement about taxes and spending is at the center of the budget impasse. There have been many floor debates, false starts and hearings, but no evidence of a grand compromise between the Republican legislative majority on one side, and Democrats and the Wolf administration on the other.

Randy Albright, the governor’s budget secretary, waved off complaints about the administration’s radio silence.

“We talk,” said Albright. “I talk on a daily basis with staff and leadership to try find where that common agreement is and see if we can bring this closure.”

But Adolph said there have been no formal negotiations, and he said it’s up to the administration to schedule such talks.

“The governor calls the meetings, most of the time... but the governor has not contacted us,” said Adolph. “There’s differences. But you can’t talk out those differences unless you meet.”