State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Expert: Wolf's budget plan is legal, but bad policy

Written by Katie Meyer | Jul 11, 2016 5:25 PM
Capitol from distance.jpg

It is likely Governor Wolf will not face serious legal challenges if he allows an unbalanced budget to become law. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- Governor Tom Wolf plans to let the state budget become law Monday at midnight without his signature.

But some say Wolf's approach is unconstitutional, largely because the budget is still $1.3 billion short of being balanced.

Nathan Benefield with the right-leaning Commonwealth Foundation says passing the bill as-is would be unacceptable.

"Everyone agrees this budget is not balanced," Benefield said. "The administrative code, which is law, basically says that the governor, when the budget is not balanced, must bring the budget into balance. And that's where he's kind of ignoring the law."

Wolf's spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan takes issue with that.

He said under the constitution, the responsibility for balancing the budget falls to the General Assembly.

Joseph DiSarro, a political science professor at Washington and Jefferson College, agreed that the governor is technically within his legal bounds.

But he said that still doesn't make for good policy.

"This sort of dysfunctional relationship that exists will continue, the budgetary crisis will continue," DiSarro said. "We have an unbalanced budget--it wouldn't take an economist to tell you that's not good."

Wolf said Sunday night he was confident the Legislature could come up with a revenue package in time for the midnight deadline.

Benefield and DiSarro both said that looks extremely unlikely.

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