Dauphin County commissioners offer grim outlook on state budget future

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- For the 12th straight year, residents in Dauphin County will not be asked to pay additional taxes.

Also, when the county commissioners presented their budget proposal for 2017 on Wednesday, they announced an additional $900,000 slated for Dauphin County Children and Youth Services.

That is about where the good news ended.

None of the county commissioners' budgetary plans are possible without a completed state budget, and the Dauphin County trio offered very little optimism the upcoming budget battle between Governor Tom Wolf and a Republican-heavy legislature will go smoothly.

"Twenty-seventeen may be an ugly year in the Commonwealth," chairman Jeff Haste said during the meeting.

"It may be the ugliest yet," responded fellow commissioner George Hartwick.

Dauphin County's total proposed 2017 budget runs at $249 million, up $6.5 million from its 2016 budget.

However, the county relies on the state for some of its most important funding. Human services programs such a children and youth, which is designated to receive $10.5 million in 2017, and drug and alcohol, won't receive any money until Gov. Wolf, the State House, and State Senate agree upon a budget.

Commissioners Haste, Hartwick, and Mike Pries spoke of the recent County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania meeting, and commissioners across the state are expecting a lengthy budget impasse in 2017, similar to the lengthy stalemate of 2015 which lasted nine months.

Haste said at the meeting Wednesday if another budget impasse occurs, Dauphin County will continue to provide essential services to its residents, but the county will withhold certain state services until it is paid.

"Being a partner which is constantly being crapped upon by the state is going to end," Haste said.