Governor's budget assumes $125 million in savings from program yet to be approved

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jul 21, 2014 4:48 AM
corbett budget.jpg

Photo by AP Photo/Bradley C Bower

(Harrisburg) -- The recently signed state budget relies on robust revenue growth to stay in balance, yet $125 million of savings in the spending plan hasn't even been approved at this point.

Governor Corbett is counting on the expected savings from his Healthy Pennsylvania plan and the Affordable Care Act.

Pennsylvania submited its application to the federal government February 19th, and has been negotiating over its details since.

Since no final decision has been made on the administration’s proposal, Democratic state Representative Florindo Fabrizio of Erie County, minority chair of the House Health Committee, says including the savings isn't wise.

"(Of) course not, just as all these other one time fixes are really a problem. In my opinion, this budget has more trap doors in it than a vaudeville stage."

The budget calls for the end of a program for low and middle income workers with disabilities, saving more than $7 million.

It also changes premiums and benefits to save another $10 million.

As for the other $108 million in savings, the state Department of Public Welfare says it comes from a "General Assistance" fund.

"To say that we're going to get 125 million dollars in savings from the Governor's plan for Healthy Pennsylvania, that's a quantum leap in assumptions that the feds are even going to approve the plan," says Representative Fabrizio.

Republican Senator Pat Vance of Cumberland County, chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee, says any information on the assumed savings comes from the Governor's staff.

When asked if her committee is just trusting those numbers, she responded:

"Yes, I suppose we are. But uh, the options are. Well, yes, we are."

She says she has little information on the specifics, but trusts the administration’s numbers.

"Well first of all I think that Secretary Mackareth is very knowledgeable, understands the process, and that's a big plus to start with."

When asked whether the savings should have been included to balance the budget, Governor Corbett's spokesman Jay Pagni says he's hopeful about the waiver's approval.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could always approve the waiver, but do so with changes that could impact the bottom line, leaving a budget hole for the next fiscal year.

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