Wolf says time running out on budget deal before downgrade
22 September, 2017, 00:50 | Author: Clint Gray
"To us, this signals a lower rating".
Pennsylvania is now in the bottom five rated by Standard and Poor's.
If the General Assembly had enacted the modest personal income tax increase Governor Wolf proposed in February 2017, not only would the budget be balanced this year, but there would be nearly no carryover deficit from last year.
Spain said the S&P's rating isn't based on press releases.
S&P Global Ratings downgraded Pennsylvania's credit rating Wednesday, citing a history of late budgets.
In a news release Wednesday, S&P credit analyst Carol Spain offered several reasons for the downgrade of Pennsylvania's credit rating one notch to A-plus: the state's chronic structural imbalance dating back almost a decade; a history of late budget adoption; and S&P's opinion that this pattern could continue.
The budget bill also seeks a $1 billion lump-sum payment by selling rights to a portion of the state's tobacco settlement fund, which now receives about $350 million per year. No matter what the right-wing advocates say, a majority of Republican members of the General Assembly is simply unwilling to reduce state spending to the level necessary to balance the budget without new taxes - indeed they have taken credit for increased spending for education and human services.
While the Pennsylvania government has bailed the state out every year since the recession, two independently elected officials, Treasurer Joe Torsella and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (both Democrats), have refused to authorize a short-term loan during the stalemate. The action caused a lot of dramatic words from state leaders and many calls to settle the budget, but no signs of compromise. Three days later, Pennsylvania delayed a payment of $1.67 billion in reimbursements under Medicaid and delayed $581 million in payments to school districts on Monday.
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When Tom Wolf became governor, he proposed an aggressive and fair tax policy to close the deficit.
Wolf has said he wants to get the budget done by October first. "My budget proposal was balanced, cut more than $2 billion in expenditures and consolidated agencies, while also fixing the deficit". Governor Wolf and the Senate are at odds with the House on how to fully fund the budget that became law back in July, and reaction to the downgrade broke along those lines.
"If an agreement has not progressed by next week", the governor's statement said, "I will be forced to take further steps to manage this situation".
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