‘Judgment Day’ proposed in Harrisburg if state budget late

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- If another state budget impasse is on its way, prepare for a political apocalypse in Harrisburg.

State Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin, Perry) is proposing a series of bills designed to prevent another lengthy budget deadlock. He's referring to it as a 'Judgment Day' bill package, due to its extreme consequences.

"If we fail to do our jobs," Teplitz said Wednesday, "Judgment Day is coming."

Teplitz's bills are designed to increase in consequence severity as the months without a budget progresses. The most severe coming six months after the June 30 deadline. If a budget is not enacted into law by January 1, a bill would automatically trigger recall elections for the governor, lieutenant governor, and all members of the General Assembly.

Other penalties for state lawmakers include a suspension of pay for the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members and General Assembly members if a budget isn't enacted by July 1. Teplitz, along with Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), proposed the "No budget. No pay." bill in Senate Bill 187, which has sat untouched in the State Government Committee since February 2015.

If a budget isn't signed by October 1, Teplitz proposes all pending bills and resolutions become void. Another bill would eliminate the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for state lawmakers and officials, also on Oct. 1.

"We'll see who's willing to put their neck on the line to get this done," Teplitz said.

Co-chair of the Government Reform Caucus, Teplitz expects to get bipartisan support for the "Judgment Day" bill package. However, according to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre), his Democratic colleague's proposal will not likely be taken seriously.

"Senator Teplitz has never voted for a budget, or rarely votes for a budget, so for him to complain about budgets not getting passed, 'Yes' votes are a good way to get things passed," Corman said.

Other Republicans wonder what happens if their caucus passes a state budget on time, like the GOP did in 2015-16, only to have the budget plan vetoed by the governor.

"The governor isn't taking a salary to begin with, so what does he care if he's not (getting a salary)," said York County Representative Seth Grove. "You've set up a system disproportionate between the General Assembly and the governor's office."

Will Pennsylvanians even see 'Judgment Day' if Teplitz's bill garners support? He hopes not, and both Republican leaders and Governor Wolf's office indicated talks are ongoing and promising. However, some of the main issues which caused the 2015-16 budget impasse remain, including Gov. Wolf's revenue-generating tax increase proposals, and the state's pension debt crisis.

"The governor is committed to working with the legislature to reach agreement on a 2016-17 budget that is truly balanced, fixes the deficit, and invests in important areas like education, and combating the heroin crisis," said Gov. Wolf spokesperson Jeff Sheridan in a written statement.