Two, two, two budgets are not better than one at the state Capitol

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania Senate stuck to the script Monday and passed a $30.8 billion budget which had been agreed to by legislative leaders and Governor Wolf.

On Tuesday, the House veered from the script and passed its own, leaner, $30.3 billion spending plan. It’s another bizarre twist in what has been a bizarre budget year.

Critics slammed the House for its lone wolf approach and deviation from a previously agreed-to plan.

“It’s not a budget deal that will pass the other side of the building and it’s not a budget deal that the governor will sign,” said Joan Benso with Partnerships for Children. “The thought on December 8th that we have to go back to the drawing board because the majority party in both chambers is advancing a different budget is very troubling.”

Benso rallied Tuesday in support of the Senate version because it promises more money for schools and kids. But the Senate budget is not universally embraced.

“It spends too much money,” said Nate Benefield of the Commonwealth Foundation. “It’s nearly triple the rate of inflation.”

Benefield said the Senate still isn’t saying specifically how it will pay for its plan and suspects broad-based taxes of some sort will be part of the deal. He also spotlighted $85 million directed toward the Department of Community and Economic Development as a return of the WAM in Harrisburg.

He shared a list of expenditures that are questionable in his mind.

“A lot of those are resurrected programs that we stripped out a few years ago because they are wasteful spending,” he said. “There’s pork-barrel projects now back in there and what concerns me is who’s votes are getting bought for this?”

House Republicans are openly and publicly questioning their Senate Republican colleagues who voted for $30.8 billion in spending.

“It’s a feud we’ll say between those that are OK with spending money and raising taxes and those of us that are not,” said Representative Dan Moul (R-Adams).

But somebody in House leadership, likely Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana), agreed to that $30.8 billion deal that rank-and-file now refuses to honor.

“They shouldn’t have agreed to a $30.8 billion budget,” Moul said. “No one should have without checking with the members of all four caucuses.”

Wolf released a video plea for both sides to return to the higher spend agreed-to deal.

“We need a budget now,” Wolf said while mildly slapping his desk. “I’ve had agreements with Republican leaders in the House and Republican leaders in the Senate, actually twice now.”

A huge Christmas tree in the Rotunda and wreaths adorning doors show that the Capitol is ready for Christmas.

Will a budget be ready by Christmas is the big question.

“This is the hottest I’ve ever seen the temperature in this building and it’s mid-December,” Moul said. “This is beyond ridiculous.”

“I’ve been working on state budgets since 1979 and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Benso said.

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