As the 2007-08 fiscal year continues without a state budget in place, and the potential for a furlough of thousands of state workers draws near, I wish to provide you with an update regarding some important issues as we work through this process.
First and foremost, this crisis is being manufactured by the Governor. Legal counsel has advised us there is no requirement under federal law to begin furloughs at this point, and that important state government functions can be continued as the legislature and the Governor work towards a mutually agreeable and fiscally responsible budget solution. Furthermore, the surplus for the last fiscal year was approximately $650 million, and there is little prospect of a cash flow problem. In short, the Governor’s crisis does not result from a lack of revenues – it results from his pursuit of political advantage and of programs that need a lot more work before they can be seriously considered for final passage.
Governor Rendell was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer (7/4/2007) saying “[a]s much as I don’t like the fact that someone who works for the state would lose a week or two weeks of salary . . . I think there are issues that are on the table that are important to the quality of life of 12½ million Pennsylvanians”. It is unacceptable that the Governor would hold his employees and their families hostage simply to advance a political agenda.
The Senate passed a responsible budget on June 20th with bipartisan support (49-1), and the House refused to concur ten days later by just a few votes. Earlier this week the Senate voted to create a conference committee to resolve the differences. We are waiting for the House to take similar action. I and my colleagues believe that the highest priority of the Governor and General Assembly should be to finalize a budget.
I have great empathy for the workers whose lives would be disrupted by a furlough. The Governor does have a choice. He can engage in negotiations to reach a budget agreement or he can continue to use workers as pawns in pursuit of a legislative agenda unrelated to the state budget.
For 11 years in a row the Governor and General Assembly met the budget deadline of June 30th. Since Governor Rendell was elected in November 2002, the constitutional budget deadline has not been met in even one year.
As of July 6, the budget bill (House Bill 1286) is awaiting further action by the House to create a conference committee and negotiate the final spending plan. For an up-to-date status of the bill, please click on the bill number.
I assure you that I will be working diligently to help bring this process to a responsible and reasonable conclusion in the interests of the people of our district.
Lisa Baker, Senator
Contact: Brian Grove