HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Tuesday rejected a budget proposed by Republican-led lawmakers, calling it ‘garbage,’ but allowed spending on education and some services to be funded to avoid a threatened closure of schools in the state.
“I am expressing the outrage that all of us should feel about the garbage the Republican legislative leaders have tried to dump on us,” said a visibly angry Wolf. “This budget is wrong for Pennsylvania, and the legislature, the folks we elected to serve us, need to own up to this.”
Pennsylvania has been without a budget for six months due to a feud between Wolf, a Democrat who took office at the start of the year, and the Republican-controlled legislature.
The line-item veto exercised by the governor will allow spending of around $23.3 billion, compared with the $30.3 billion that was in the Republicans’ budget proposal.
That money will go toward education funding, state corrections institutions and medical assistance, Wolf said.
The move buys a reprieve for the state’s schools that are running low on funds. Philadelphia, the state’s largest school district, has said it would have to shut its doors in late January if the budget stalemate is not resolved.
School districts across the state have had to borrow at least $900 million in total in order to stay open.
Wolf called on lawmakers to return to Harrisburg to pass the $30.8 billion plan he wanted. That higher budget contains an additional $377 million in education funding. Wolf said the Republican proposal cut school spending by $95 million.
The state and state agencies affected by the impasse have faced a number of credit downgrades from ratings agencies this year. Fitch downgraded its rating on Pennsylvania’s general obligation bonds to ‘AA-minus’ from ‘AA’ in September.
Along with Illinois, Pennsylvania is the only U.S. state still without a budget. States usually enact a budget at the start of the financial year, which for most states is on July 1.
Reporting by David DeKok in Harrisburg; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler