The Rev. Dai Morgan, who coordinates state legislative advocacy for the three United Methodist annual conferences in Pennsylvania, including the Eastern PA Conference, offers a troubling assessment of the impact of the state government’s inability to pass a 2015-16 fiscal-year budget after six months of delay.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, recently received and rejected in part another proposed budget from the Republican-led state assembly. But he implemented a stopgap measure to fund certain critical state-supported programs, agencies and services.
Morgan’s analysis, shared with Bishop Peggy Johnson, came in response to a request from the Rev. William Meekins, Assistant to Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the Western PA Conference. He writes:
The lack of a state budget caused the most obvious and widespread effects to school districts (especially rural and poor urban), nonprofit social services and county-level government services.
However, any agency that relies on state funding suffered, including prisons, state universities and state-level courts and row offices.
At this point, perhaps a better way to answer your question is to look at the situation after Gov. Wolf signed a stopgap budget last week, with line-items vetoed. The budget presented to the governor was for $30.3 billion. He signed off on a $23.4 billion budget.
The state courts, state row offices (Attorney General, Auditor General and Treasury), community colleges and 14 universities in the state system (although not Penn St., Pitt, Temple and Lincoln) have been funded for a full year.
Preschools, county and nonprofit social services should now be adequately funded.
Federal funding amounting to $24.4 billion will now be released to about two dozen state agencies, including the Departments of Education and Human Services.
Grants to college students will be funded, but at a reduced level.
Public schools will receive funds adequate for the short term. However, there is no compensation for the several millions of dollars incurred in borrowing costs by school districts, while waiting for the budget to be passed.
Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln Universities will receive no state funding, at this time.
Agricultural programs will go unfunded.
State funded health treatment and screening programs will not be funded.
State medical assistance for the poor will not be funded.
Dai Morgan, UM Advocacy in Pennsylvania