Harrisburg appears caught in the escalating war between the Republican legislature and the Republican governor, who has vetoed the legislature’s $5 million line item for employee parking in the city.
Hundreds of government workers park in Harrisburg garages and the state picks up the tab.
As part of Harrisburg’s recovery plan, the state guarantees it will lease a number of parking spots. It promised $5 million next fiscal year.
When Governor Tom Corbett blue-lined the legislature’s $5 million parking line item, alarms went off.
“The recovery plan is a very intricate puzzle,” Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York) said. “If you remove one piece of it, it jeopardizes the whole plan. I think it is unacceptable for the governor to place that plan in jeopardy.”
The governor’s office accuses Teplitz of overstating and misstating the governor’s intent.
“We blue-lined a nebulous statement in the Fiscal Code that doesn’t even use the word parking,” said Jay Pagni, Corbett’s spokesman.
Indeed, the language in Section 1724-J in the Fiscal Code that purportedly controls the parking money for Harrisburg reads like this: “Funds appropriated for rental, relocation of municipal charges, $2,500,000 shall be transferred to the Senate for distribution upon approval of the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Majority Leader of the Senate and $2,500,000 shall be transferred to the House of Representatives for distribution upon approval of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.”
“There’s no language, there’s not the word parking in that language whatsoever,” said Pagni. “It appears to be exclusively discretionary.”
Discretionary money can be spent as leaders see fit and not necessarily for parking, Pagni argues. He also said that agencies and offices under the governor’s control paid for their Harrisburg parking out of their operating budgets without additional expenditures or line items. Pagni said the governor asked lawmakers to do the same and they ignored his request.
The legislature’s appropriation was $330 million. It is also sitting on an estimated taxpayer-funded reserve of $140 million. It then requested the additional $5 million for parking. Pagni insists it’s the additional $5 million that the governor finds objectionable.
“He’s saying that the legislature can pay for parking through its own existing resources, rather than going back to the people of Pennsylvania to cover that again with an additional line item,” he said.
Teplitz agrees the legislature should spend down its reserve and pick up the parking tab in Harrisburg. But will it?
“The reality is that legislative leaders are not going to do that and the financial recovery of our Capital City is too important to be caught up in that battle,” Teplitz said.