Pennsylvania House returns to Harrisburg; budget still undone

The Pennsylvania House returned to Harrisburg from its summer break Monday.

It is still a house divided.

“We need House Republicans to stand up and do the right thing and provide real recurring revenue that will solve the budget,” said Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), the minority chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

But many House Republicans say they found surplus funds in various state accounts. They prefer to raid those pots of “unspoken for” money to borrowing or increasing taxes.

“Just seeing how much money has been squirreled away in secondary reserve accounts is just mystifying,” Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) said. “Why don’t we use that money? Taxpayers expect us to use that money.”

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) is pushing a hike in the personal income tax from 3.07 to 3.32 percent. He knows it’s likely a non-starter in his caucus but said he’s gotten numerous negative emails from constituents and advocacy groups.

“They’re saying you’re taking money from a program or fund that’s important to us and we don’t think it’s a good idea,” DiGirolamo said.

Schemel called that push back predictable.

“We’ve got entrenched bureaucracies. If I were a bureaucrat, I would be loathed to give up money that I had in reserves for who knows what purpose in the future,” he said. Schemel.

The so called “taxpayer budget” that would take surplus cash should get a vote in the House this week. Even if it has the numbers to pass, Democrats insist it doesn’t have the numbers to work.

“They’ve counted money twice in some cases,” Markosek said, “and to say we have that kind of money laying around is totally fictitious.”

Gov. Tom Wolf has warned that without a budget by Friday, he’ll have no choice but to freeze some spending.

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