Harrisburg man “signing” a new state budget

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- As state lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate enjoy their holiday breaks away from the Capitol, Barry Shutt watches vigilantly over an empty Rotunda.

He sits in a blue, plastic lawn chair, set up in a corner of the room. Above him are two signs, with only one in plain sight. The signs are only two feet by three feet tall. The first one shows a picture of the Capitol foregrounded against a bleak, overcast sky. Black smoke billows out a chimney which has been superimposed onto the cardboard.

The sign reads, "No Budget: Day 180."

"Every retiree needs a hobby," Shutt laughs.

Shutt, a retired minister in Harrisburg, is making a clear reference to Papal conclaves; when the College of Cardinals meet to decide a new Pope, black smoke rises out of a chimney inside the Vatican City to signify each failed attempt at election. Therefore, it should be no surprise Shutt's hidden, second sign, is a Capitol against a blue sky, white smoke billowing out of a chimney. This one reads, "Finally, A Budget!", with a space to mark the date.

Realistic at Pennsylvania's six month budget impasse past, while optimistic about its future.

"I think it gets done this week," he says. "The question is, will he sign it today? Or will I be here tomorrow with 181?

"The ball is in the governor's court right now."

Shutt is correct. After passing through the Senate last Wednesday, Governor Wolf received the House Republicans' $30.3 billion budget proposal Christmas Eve morning. It is $500 million less than a $30.8 billion budget Wolf previously agreed to with Senate Republicans, which has since been scrapped. The House's budget plan also includes a $95 million cut to education funding, according the Gov. Wolf's office.

Gov. Wolf spent Monday inside the Capitol working on a response. He will announce his decision at a Tuesday morning press conference. Wolf will either veto the budget entirely, line-item veto the bill which would still release select state and federal funding, or sign the whole budget into law.

"It's not balanced. It's not paid for. They didn't pass any revenues for what they're trying to spend," Wolf press secretary Jeff Sheridan said. "They (House and Senate members) left town without doing their job. They sent us a budget which makes cuts to education, is not paid for, and is only going to grow the deficit."

Barry Shutt plans on spending his days at the Capitol until a budget is passed. He hopes to speak with lawmakers, but the footsteps of pacing politicians on the Capitol floor has since been replaced with tourists.

"A lot of visitors come through and they don't understand what goes on," Shutt says. "The electorate, sadly, is too uninformed at times. I want people to start realizing whats actually going on in here ."

Shutt plans on coming back Tuesday, 181 full days into the longest budget impasse in modern Pennsylvania history. He'll have both of his signs; he just hopes he show the white smoke.