Gov. Wolf Imposes Hiring Freeze, Travel, Purchasing Limits
Late Thursday, in response to the continued budget impasse, Gov. Wolf imposed a hiring freeze on state agencies, with the only exceptions being those positions providing direct care to patients, residents and clients; those directly engaged in law enforcement, public safety and corrections; or revenue-generating and revenue-collecting positions.
The directive also said agencies should not continue or add retired or temporary workers to their payroll unless it is absolutely essential to their operations.
Wolf also imposed new limits on travel-- in-state and out-of-state-- and continued a ban on purchasing items not critical to state agency operations.
Republicans To Put Wolf Budget Up For Vote
Saying the main stumbling block in budget negotiations is Gov. Wolf’s instance on generating an additional $2 billion in revenue from Personal Income and Sales Tax increases, Senate and House Republicans said Wednesday they will put Wolf’s revenue package up for a House vote next week.
Gov. Wolf said Tuesday, after he vetoed the Republican’s stopgap budget bills, he thought the votes were there among rank-and-file Republican legislators to pass his budget package, including a natural gas severance tax.
House Republicans put Wolf’s tax package up for a vote before as an amendment to House Bill 283 (F.Keller-R-Snyder) in June and it failed 193 to 0. Democrats said it was a “stunt,” and not the real thing.
Whatever it was, no one voted for it.
As promised, Gov. Wolf did veto the Republican stopgap budget bills Tuesday saying, “Instead of seriously negotiating a final budget that funds education with a commonsense severance tax, fixes our deficit without gimmicks and provides property tax relief for middle-class families and seniors, Republican leaders passed a stopgap budget that once again sells out the people of Pennsylvania to oil and gas companies and Harrisburg special interests.
“Republican leaders are intent on Harrisburg politics as usual and embracing a failed status quo that is holding Pennsylvania back.
“Just like their sham budget in June, this stopgap budget makes it clear that Republican leaders not only want to do nothing to move the Commonwealth forward, but they are intent on taking us backwards.
“If the Republican budget became law, our deficit would balloon to $3 billion, and instead of restoring education funding, even further cuts would become necessary, and our credit rating would become junk status – that’s unacceptable.
“Throughout negotiations, I have tried hard to compromise, and recently, I offered historic reforms to the liquor and pension systems, two areas Republicans say are priorities, and in return, I have received nothing on education, a severance tax or fixing the deficit.
“Despite the political posturing and blatant obstruction by Republican leaders, I know there are rank and file Republican legislators who understand the importance of investing in education and there are rank and file Republican legislators who support a commonsense severance tax.
“Now is the time to come together to accomplish that goal – Pennsylvania cannot wait any longer.
“At every turn, Republican leaders have prevented serious negotiations because they are unwilling to take on oil and gas companies and Harrisburg special interests to make the long-term investments in education and the changes needed to help Pennsylvania families.”
The stopgap budget bills included Senate Bill 1000 (Browne-R-Lehigh) General Fund Stopgap Budget Bill (summary and Senate Fiscal Note); Senate Bill 1001 (Browne-R-Lehigh) Fiscal Code Stopgap Bill (summary and Senate Fiscal Note); and amended House Bill 224 (Christiana-R -Beaver) with the Education Code Stopgap Bill (summary and Senate Fiscal Note).
Click Here for a copy of the short veto message for each bill.
Senate Republicans React To Wolf Stopgap Veto
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) released this reaction to Gov. Wolf’s veto:
“Today, Gov. Wolf again said no to vital funding for schools and community organizations. By vetoing the emergency funding plan, Governor Wolf is preventing $3 billion of state support for schools and hundreds of millions of dollars for social service agencies from immediately reaching those in need.
“We are deeply troubled that the Governor has elected to hold vital services hostage. This does not have to happen – the money is there and our state hasn’t stopped collecting taxes. We are simply attempting to end unnecessary hardship while efforts to enact a full budget continue. Unfortunately, the Governor refuses to see this emergency funding plan as an opportunity to keep money flowing to schools and social service agencies.
“We met or exceeded his request on 70 percent of budget items and offered to match his proposal for school funding, yet Governor Wolf still said no. It’s becoming more and more clear that for Gov. Wolf this budget impasse is about one thing – achieving a tax increase of historic proportions. With that stance, he is ignoring the will of the people. The majority of Pennsylvanians cannot afford for us to raise their income taxes and sales taxes by $4 billion.
“We have real differences. While we are greatly upset by the Governor’s latest rejection, we remain ready to talk further and ultimately pass a fiscally responsible budget for the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
September Revenues Up
Pennsylvania collected $2.7 billion in General Fund revenue in September, bringing fiscal-year-to-date collections to $6.7 billion, Secretary of Revenue Eileen McNulty reported Thursday. In September 2014, the state collected $2.6 billion in revenue.
The House will be in session October 5, 6 and 7, but the Senate will not be in voting session until October 13 and 14 (have to take off for Columbus Day). The House returns then on October 20 and 21, as does the Senate.
The House also added November 4, 5, 9 and 10 to its voting schedule.
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