Pa.'s M.I.A. budget: Any day now?
On Wednesday, state Treasurer Joe Torsella announced a “troubling development”: release of a $750 million loan that the state must repay, with interest, within a week. He'd earlier said the money will “prop up the General Fund,” absent a revenue plan closing the $2.2 billion gap in the $32 billion budget. Since that budget's passage, Harrisburg's biggest story has been nothing — as in what Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers have done regarding budget-process completion.
As of Wednesday, online calendars showed the House last doing business July 22; the Senate, July 27. The governor's online schedule, tweets and news releases showed he'd done nothing explicitly related to budget completion this month, though the issue likely arose in a couple of interviews listed. And the newest story on PennLive's “Pennsylvania Budget” page was three weeks old.
Absent Harrisburg doing what it should, Mr. Torsella says, “the General Fund balance will again fall below zero by August 29th. Treasury continues to project a need for … borrowing of as much as $3 billion ... .” And he warned against assuming “that Treasury will continue to backstop the General Fund … .”
Harrisburg's dereliction of its budget-completion duty is obvious. At some point, Mr. Wolf and lawmakers will rush to just get something done. But they should have been working all along — in public, not behind closed doors — on this issue, not taking what looks to taxpayers, and to Wall Street credit-rating agencies, too much like a vacation from a fundamental responsibility.