On Thursday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dwight Evans recessed the Special Budget Conference Committee, after a midday call from Governor Rendell. Little progress had been made towards negotiating an agreement.
Today, Governer Rendell held a closed-door meeting with Senator Dominic Pileggi, Senator Jake Corman, Senator Joe Scarnati, and Representative Evans at his official residence. Senator Pileggi described the meeting as “productive”, but with no progress towards resolving the budget stalemate. Pileggi said that another meeting with the governor would probably occur Sunday.
Primary factors influencing the budget impasse:
Democrats are calling for tax increases and a budget in excess of $29 billion. Republicans are holding the line on taxes and propose a $27.1 billion budget.
It remains to be seen if Governor Rendell will uphold his promise on Monday to request that House Majority Leader Todd Eachus approve Senate Bill 850, so that he can line-item veto all items that are not essential to the operation of the state government, thereby leaving a ‘skeleton’ budget, allowing the state to pay it’s employees and vendors. School districts and municipal governments would still receive no funding until the final budget is resolved.
Another issue facing the Rendell administration is the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor. Today, an additional 33,000 state employees received no paychecks, which could eventually cost Pennsylvania’s taxpayers billions in liquid damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
In the meantime, while 77,000 state employees continue to report to work to provide services to Pennsylvanians, despite receiving no pay, members of the House of Representatives and Senate are still collecting their per diem salaries, and their staff members are being paid, as well.