State Sen. Vincent Hughes is frustrated that talks to fund Pennsylvania’s $32 billion budget have again collapsed.


State Sen. Vincent Hughes is as aggravated as any other lawmaker — frustrated that talks to fund Pennsylvania’s $32 billion budget have again collapsed with Republican House leaders failing to reach agreement on a bipartisan spending plan.

Hughes (D-7) said the lack of a deal might be felt at state universities, including local schools such as Temple and Lincoln universities.

“We’ve got to get something done,” he said. “Four of the five negotiators in the budget process have agreed on how the budget should be paid for; one entity, the House Republican Caucus, is holding everything up.”

That includes holding up two Senate bills – SB 328 and 329 – that Hughes has sponsored. They provide for the annual state funding contribution to Temple and Lincoln universities.

SB 328 was supposed to take effect July 1 for Temple University and provide $150 million in funding to the school from the state’s 2017 fiscal budget. SB 329 was to allocated $14.4 million in funding to Lincoln University.

July 1 marked the start of the Pennsylvania government’s new fiscal year, but remedies for a more than $2 billion budget gap has faced a political impasse in Harrisburg since then.

“The General Assembly makes its budget decisions in the form of the General Appropriations Bill – appropriations for the executive, legislative, and judicial departments including public schools and public debt payments – and other non-preferred appropriations bills which are appropriations made to institutions not under the absolute control of the commonwealth,” Hughes noted in an email.

“These non-preferred appropriation bills require a two-thirds vote from each chamber in order to move to the governor’s desk. To date, the non-preferred appropriations bills have not passed both chambers for the 2017-18 fiscal year. These Senate-passed bills await consideration in the House,” he said.

Similar legislation for about $600 million is holding up funding to Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school. Another $52 million is targeted for Penn State’s agricultural research and extension programs.

The House adjourned on Wednesday and members aren’t expected to return before Oct. 16.

Clearly angered, Gov. Tom Wolf said he would seek to borrow money to pay bills. He said the GOP would rather see him fail than the state succeed.

“This is not the way government is supposed to work. But I have to make sure that Pennsylvanians are not hurt, so I’m going to have to act to protect the investments that we all made earlier this year,” Wolf said.

He has threatened to use his executive powers to borrow money and use incoming revenue to fund state agencies.

The governor spent the better part of the past week attempting to negotiate a deal with House GOP leadership in hopes of coming up with an amicable plan to close the $2.2 billion state spending gap, including hashing over a proposal to add a 5 percent hotel room tax statewide.

The 2017-18 budget had been agreed upon back in June, but a stalemate on how to pay for it has remained.

“I’ve had enough of the games so I’m going to manage the finances of the commonwealth until the House sees fit to do what it’s supposed to do,” Wolf said.

However, each of the party leaders blamed one another.

“Here we are today with the governor having to manage our problem because the House Republicans won’t be responsible, and won’t work with others to solve the problem,” House Democratic leader Frank Dermody (D-33) said in a statement.

House Majority Leader Dave Reed, (R-62) countered, “This doesn’t sound like a governor who actually wants to get a budget done.”

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