York County Commissioner Steve Chronister proposes mediation to end state budget impasse

Written by Flint McColgan, York Daily Record | Sep 29, 2015 3:30 PM

York County Board of Commissioners President Steve Chronister proposes professional mediation as an end to the budget impasse at a news conference outside the York County Administrative Center in York Monday.

(York) -- The president commissioner of Gov. Tom Wolf's home county on Monday proposed a novel solution to the state's three-month budget stalemate - outside mediation.

York County President Commissioner Steve Chronister said that come Nov. 1, the county might have to make tough decisions - like layoffs - if a budget is not reached.

He said the time line forced him to think "outside the box."

He identified former U.S. Congressman Philip English as the man to lead the mediation team to get state money flowing back to human services.

Under Chronister's plan, English would be joined by Chronister, a Republican-turned-Independent, and two other county commissioners from central Pennsylvania. He said he would likely reach out to Craig Lehman, a Democratic Lancaster County commissioner, and Gary Eichelberger, a Republican commissioner in Cumberland County. 

English > > The former Pennsylvania congressman now serves as the senior government relations adviser for Washington, D.C.-based law and lobbying firm Arent Fox. In Congress he served on the Ways and Means Committee.

English said he has "rarely seen a budget impasse this protracted and bitter" and said mediation is a "worthwhile idea" for a solution.

English said he is a moderate Republican but that partisanship has nothing to do with mediation.

Limitations > > The mediated outcome could have its limitations.

G. Terry Madonna, professor of public affairs and director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll, said he has never heard of mediation proposed at such a level.

English said that any outcome would come down to a "handshake agreement," because there isn't anything in state law to make it binding.

Reaction > > The governor and the Legislature "will not concede what is basically a constitutional responsibility to a third party," Madonna said.

That could mean that the idea is likely to not be considered.

In Harrisburg, finger pointing continues from both sides.

"The guys who know Tom Wolf the best realize he is not able to finish this deal," said Stephen Miskin, the spokesman for the House Republican caucus, of Chronister's proposal.

"Gov. Wolf claims he was a businessman and prided himself on being able to compromise and bring everyone to the table and compromise," he added. "The thing is he has been more partisan than any other governor in our lifetimes."

The Wolf administration reacted negatively to a stop-gap funding budget proposed by House Republicans.

"The stopgap budget is yet another gimmick that demonstrates the Republicans' clear comfort with politics as usual in Harrisburg," wrote Wolf press secretary Jeffrey Sheridan, in a recent letter to the York Daily Record. "Republicans are embracing a failed status quo that is holding Pennsylvania back."

Sheridan could not be reached to comment on the mediation proposal.

Funding situation

Right now, agencies contracting with York County human services are working unpaid..

Deborah Harrison, the executive director of York Children's Advocacy Center, said the agency's services - including forensic interviews to determine abuse against children - to the York County Office of Children Youth and Families is going unpaid.

She predicts December or possibly January to be the time when her organization enters "the worst-case scenario," namely laying off employees..

Terry Clark, the director of York County office Children Youth and Families, in a recent interview said his office was forced to stop paying invoices from contractors like Children's Advocacy Center without a state budget in place. When a budget returns, they will resume payments interest-free. .

The same can't be said for those service providers, he said, who have had to take lines of credit out to stay afloat..

To watch a video of Chronister and Harrison speaking Monday about the proposal outside the York County Administrative Center visit the York Daily Record website.

Also of interest 

2015 Pennsylvania budget impasse: News, information

Pa. budget impasse: What Gov. Wolf, Republican lawmakers want

Budget impasse hurting Community Progress Council (letter)

State budget impasse prompts local schools, others to plan ahead

Pa. charter schools worry as districts stop payment amid budget impasse

Auditor general: School audits will reflect budget impasse

Pa. social service agencies dig deep to keep going during budget impasse

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