2015-16 State Budget
It may have taken almost six months, but the Governor was given a present he certainly never wished for on Christmas Eve: a $30.2 billion budget plan, without any tax increases, gift-wrapped by the Republican-controlled legislature. He had already vetoed the same budget in late June and a stopgap (or “temporary”) plan in September with the same funding amounts.
On Tuesday, December 29, Governor Tom Wolf partially signed the state budget spending plan, ending the budget impasse and sending much-needed monies to struggling service agencies and school across the commonwealth.
He did not sign the entire $30.2 billion Republican-backed budget bill as he blue-line vetoed certain line items he considered to be “cuts” by the legislature. Education had been the Governor’s top priority since he campaigned for the position in 2014, and he blue-lined most of the education spending lines, forcing legislators to back to Harrisburg to increase the state’s spending.
This is not exactly a foreign concept. Governor Corbett employed the blue-line veto method in the summer of 2014, and Governor Rendell famously blue-lined education spending in 2009, leading to the longest budget impasse (up until now) in Pennsylvania history. While it is not entirely uncommon, it certainly disrupted any chance of comradery between the executive and legislative branches of government going forward.
How did we get there? In early December, the state Senate and Governor’s office agreed on a compromise budget “framework”, which, in addition to the $30.8 billion spending plan, also included liquor privatization and pension reform. The Senate passed the budget bill in their chamber and sent it to the House of Representatives to be finished.
The House, however, was unable to garner support for this compromise measure, due to the massive tax increases associated with the spending plan, as well as problems with the liquor privatization details and little to no support of the pension reform plan.
So with its back against the wall, the House instead passed a $30.2 billion budget plan. And when it was clear that pension reform, liquor privatization and tax increases could not be a part of the “framework” the Senate sent the same budget to the Governor’s desk.
But there are certainly still loose ends hanging from the state budget, including the aforementioned education funding, agriculture funding, hospital services and legislative operations.
Nursing Home Funding
As far as nursing home funding is concerned, the long-term care line item in the budget was not vetoed by the Governor, and rates remained flat for the 2015-16 fiscal year. The nursing facility $8 million MDOI payment in the budget, which was placed separately in the Public Welfare Code, was also signed into law. See the Reimbursement/Policy Issues section for more on the BAF and Nursing Facility Case-Mix Rates for FY 2015-16 and MDOI.
We want to thank our members who were so helpful throughout the prolonged budget process (though it is not technically over).