A couple of graphics to start your week. First, it looks like the top Republicans, who have been negotiating behind closed doors without their Democratic colleagues, will not be able to deliver a budget by this Wednesday. [Post-Gazette, 6-10-12] That would have been quite early, which is not necessarily a bad thing, except that time is about the only thing the Democrats have to negotiate with right now. Without a seat at the policy table, a little more time will help as they try to hold out for a better budget.
Right now the Senate has passed a plan that spends a little over $500 million more than the proposal Governor Corbett submitted back in February.The Pennsylvania House plan is slightly different from the Senate’s, with most of the variation around funding for education and welfare. Significantly, the House plan proposes cutting no money from the block grant program, while the Senate plan includes $50 million in cuts, and Governor Corbett’s eliminated the entire $100 million. That program pays for Kindergarten and early childhood education across the state.
So time is not up. And meanwhile state revenues are looking up. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center reports that “March and April surged past estimates, narrowing the state’s revenue shortfall.” [PBPC Revenue Tracker, 2011-12 FY] We will see May figures out later this week, showing our cumulative shortfall down substantially from where we were just a few months ago.Some have wondered if Republican leaders were hoping to get their budget in before these latest revenue figures appear. Pennsylvania still has a shortfall, but we have far less of one than Gov. Corbett had predicted and that has been used to justify continued draconian cuts to public education (and other services).
So it appears we have a little more time and money. Those are good things!