If you're not following the day to day budget negotiations going on in Harrisburg, you might imagine there's an orderly process of serious lawmakers discussing the intricacies of state finances, trying to do what's right for you and me. Well, not a chance, not even close.
Yesterday, when a procedural vote was taken in the House to enable the legislators to vote on a $30.8 billion budget favored by the governor, it barely passed by a vote of 100 to 99. The odd thing was two "yes" votes came from legislators who were not even there. Rep. Pete Daley, D-Washington County was on leave and Rep. Leslie Acosta, D-Philadelphia was in Nicaragua. Without those ghost votes, the motion would not have passed.
Taxes, ... what taxes?
This motion would have enabled a vote on a budget that has a 6 percent spending increase, requiring a tax hike, though no details of any new taxes or what taxes were going to rise or by how much was included.
About those pension benefits
Also, the Senate is now saying if the budget does not include changes to the design of the state's pension system, they will not pass it. Making the pension situation even more interesting is that the unfunded pension benefits, already over $50 billion, and what the design changes are supposed to address going forward, will not be reduced and will continue to grow, though employee union representatives have already said they would not accept those changes anyway. When pension reform was voted on earlier in the House, it lost by a wide margin, but some voted against it because it was too aggressive and others said it didn't go far enough. This will turn out well.
Right now, the budget is up in the air again while they discuss where the money will come from and what to do about those pensions. Isn't that where this whole thing started? A budget six months overdue and this is where we are? If you're not amused, you're not alone.