Local senator introduces bills to thwart next budget impasse

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – First-time governors give their budget addresses in March, all the rest deliver them in February.

Then, there’s typically a couple of weeks of appropriations hearings followed by months of budget-related silence.

Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry) wants to change the entire process and on Wednesday trumpeted a series of bills he’s calling the “budget impasse prevention package.”

One proposal would require the legislature to introduce its own spending plan thirty days after the governor’s address for all to examine.

Another would mandate budget negotiation status meetings on the first of each month leading up to the June 30 deadline so the public will know exactly how close, or far apart, the various sides are to a deal. It would also publicize how frequently negotiators are meeting and what progress is being made.

“We should be working toward that deadline in a methodical way,” Teplitz said. “And there should be consequences on those of us inside the building if we don’t meet the deadline.”

The consequences come if there’s no completed budget on June 30. There would be no pay for lawmakers, the governor, the lieutenant governor or the cabinet under Teplitz’s proposal. Paychecks would be suspended.

If there’s still no spending plan on October 1 those same officials would forfeit their annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for the following year and all non-budget-related bills and resolutions would be voided.

Finally, if there’s there’s still no budget on January 1, a recall election would be triggered and take place during the spring primary.

“We want the consequences to be severe, and definitive, and permanent, on those who have not gotten their jobs done,” Teplitz said.

It is tough talk that Representative Stan Saylor (R-York) has heard before in his 24-year legislative career.

“Senator Teplitz knows that package is not gonna move forward,” Saylor said. “His own party is not behind it. It’s not gonna move. The truth of the matter is it’s a political gimmick.”

Saylor opposes the suspension of lawmakers’ pay, he said, because it makes them more vulnerable to the demands of a governor.

“Legislators here are from all walks of life; backhoe operators, teachers, nurses. Them going without pay and letting a governor that’s a millionaire blackmail them into voting for tax increases to me is not acceptable.”

But also unacceptable, Teplitz says, was that historic, nearly year-long standoff the state just experienced. Teplitz says now is the best time to focus on, and fix, the problem.

“If a nine-month budget impasse doesn’t show us we have to do things differently I don’t know what will,” Teplitz said.

The 2016-17 spending plan is due June 30, six weeks from Thursday.

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