For many of us, doing our job is part of the deal we make for getting paid.
But then, many of us don’t work as Pennsylvania State Senators and House of Representative members. They have several duties, the primary and most important one being to determine the state’s legal spending plan.
The two sides — the Republican controlled legislature and the Democratic Governor Tom Wolfe — are at an impasse on spending for education and pensions, and issues like privatizing state-controlled liquor stores and taxing Marcellus Shale.
The on-going disagreement and the sheer importance of the budget should have the two sides engaged in sun-up to sun-down negotiations. But only recently has the pace hastened toward any real compromise.
Perhaps lawmakers would work with more of an eye on time if they were personally dependent on a timely budget, like the home-bound seniors serviced by Meals on Wheels. The organization is just one of hundreds of social service agencies that receive state funding and expect to cut services this month due to the stalemate, according to a report from the United Way of Pennsylvania.
Sixty percent of those surveyed reported they plan to borrow money to continue their services. That of course will cost them interest, that they won’t get back.
Luckily for the legislature – which with 253 full-time members is the largest in the country — lawmakers socked away tax-payer money to cover their salaries in the event they weren’t able to do their most important job on time.
Scott Sloat, spokesman for the state’s Treasury Department, told a reporter for the Reading Eagle, “Throughout the impasse we’ve been paying all employees of all branches. The legislative branch has been getting paid through the surplus that they have, and the Treasury’s position is that all employees, regardless of which branch they are, who work, should be paid. If the Treasury is presented with payroll requests from the proper folks in the legislative branch, the intention is to pay them.”
That $300 million surplus has dwindled since the impasse. But spokesmen for both parties reported that they have enough to last them into September.
The United Way, along with the ARC of Pennsylvania, Hunger Free PA, PA Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability, PA Association of Nonprofit Organizations, PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the PA Council of Churches and Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association have all appealed to the Governor and state legislature to receive “stopgap” funding at last year’s levels to help them through the stalemate, or to be put on a list of essential services that receive state aid from existing state tax revenues.
But they haven’t received an answer on that. So the clock keeps ticking without a budget, and lawmakers responsible for passing one keep getting paid.