23 Sep

Organizations Anxious Over Lack of State Budget

This article was written by Jared Stonesifer, courtesy of the Beaver County Times

Standard and Poor’s downgraded Pennsylvania’s credit rating Wednesday morning because of the state Legislature’s ongoing inability to pass a budget, inaction that received strong condemnation from Gov. Tom Wolf.  In a news release, Wolf said the credit downgrade should be a “wake-up call” to state legislators and urged them to reach an “immediate resolution” to the budget stalemate.

The budget impasse isn’t just getting attention on the state level.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce President Jack Manning on Wednesday said his membership is becoming increasingly nervous about the lack of a state fiscal plan. The chamber’s membership largely comprises for-profit businesses but also includes plenty of nonprofits. Those nonprofit organizations, as well as community colleges and public school districts, heavily rely on state funding for operational expenses. “A lot of our nonprofits, municipalities, our educational institutions, they all rely on some type of flow-through funding or assistance from the state government,” Manning said. “It’s very difficult for them to figure out how they’re going to manage in the year ahead, and whether they need to float loans or cut services.”

As per the Pennsylvania Constitution, the Legislature is tasked with passing a balanced budget by June 30. As it stands, legislators are still arguing over how to balance a budget that has a $2 billion deficit.  “Everyone is starting to get nervous when we’re into the end of September and we still don’t have a revenue stream,” Manning said.  Manning said the politicians responsible for passing a budget seem to be more interested in their jobs than their constituents.

“Personally, it’s very frustrating,” he said. “If you read the comments and statements from the different factions, it seems like they’re more worried about running for re-election than doing what we put them there to do, which is to pass a budget.”  The chamber isn’t the only local organization trying to calm the fears of its members.

United Way of Beaver County Executive Director Mike Rubino said Wednesday there is growing apprehension among the social-services agencies that are partners with his organization.  Rubino said organizations such as the Beaver County Rehabilitation Center and the Association for the Blind receive quarterly payments from the state to help pay for programs.

Those agencies did receive payment in July but have already been told to anticipate a delay in the next payment.  “It’s definitely causing consternation,” he said. “It’s hasn’t had a drastic impact yet, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed and holding our breath.” Unfortunately, Rubino and his partner agencies could be holding their collective breaths for longer than they’d like.  In a news release announcing its credit downgrade, Standard and Poor’s said Pennsylvania’s budget impact “could extend considerably further.”