No action on Pa. budget; pension bill sent to committee

A stalemate over the state budget continued Tuesday, the first day of the new fiscal year, with Gov. Tom Corbett (R) saying government services won’t be impacted in the short term.

The Pa. Legislature passed the budget about 90 minutes before the midnight deadline Monday, but Corbett declined to sign it. He said he still wants a pension reform bill to make it to his desk.

“Very surprised because this was an excellent, pro-taxpayer budget,” said Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-199th) about learning Corbett declined to sign off on the budget.

Bloom said some of his fellow legislators only learned about Corbett’s decision Tuesday morning. Many left Monday night assuming he would sign it.

“That really threw us off. I thought we were being rushed to vote,” said Rep. Patty Kim (D-103rd), who voted against the budget bill. “I’m at a loss as to what the strategy is with the governor. I think it is wise on his part to sign it since pensions will probably not be passed in the near future.”

The House convened Tuesday. Instead of sending a pension plan to the governor, members voted to send the plan to the Human Services Committee, signaling Corbett will not see a reform bill on his desk soon.

Corbett has supported a plan that would create a so-called hybrid pension system, blending the existing system with a new one similar to a 401(k). It would not affect current employees, only new hires. Corbett says reform is necessary to tackle an estimated $50 billion unfunded liability. Democrats have said the plan will not create the savings the governor believes it will.

To see an overview of the plan, click here.

“I voted for it. It didn’t get the votes today. So, I would urge the governor at this point, since we did vote it, the House spoke, that we at least get the budget signed and move on with making sure we’re taking care of the fiscal responsibilities of the Commonwealth,” said Bloom.

In a statement Tuesday, Corbett said while he reviews the budget, state employees will continue to get paid. Further, he said state government services would continue, such as emergency response and unemployment compensation.

The governor has 10 days to review a bill once is passes the Legislature, the statement noted.

He did not indicate if he’s considering vetoing any portion of the budget or calling a special session of the Legislature to deal with pension reform.