Do Budget Talks Warrant An Outside Mediator?

Mar 14, 2016

One lawmaker thinks it's time for the state to get outside help negotiating and passing a budget.
Credit Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

State budget hearings for the governor’s most recent spending proposal have drawn to a close, but not without an unusual bit of advice from a House lawmaker.

Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-Philadelphia) said it’s time for legislative leaders and the governor’s office to bring in some outside help to end the budget impasse: a third-party mediator.

“I am calling for mediation,” said DeLissio, testifying to the final, sparsely attended budget hearing by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday. “I am concerned that things have been said that cannot be unsaid.”

Without mediation, DeLisso said she expects the next round of budget talks to be a “rinse and repeat of the past eight months,” when Republicans and Democrats hardened their stances on taxes and spending, and tentative compromise after tentative compromise collapsed.

“Mediation is not the admission of weakness or deficiency,” said DeLissio. “It is the recognition that we are in a situation that is unique and without precedent.”

Pennsylvania would not be the first state to consider outside mediation to settle a budget dispute.

In 2011, Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Mark Dayton asked a judge to appoint a mediator to facilitate budget negotiations with the then GOP-controlled Legislature. His request was rejected.