Wolf says stopgap budget would prompt 8,000 furloughs, cuts

ByMARC LEVY and MARK SCOLFORO Associated Press via AP logo
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Gov. Tom Wolf

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Gov. Tom Wolf warned state House members Tuesday that a stopgap budget under consideration would prompt 8,000 workers to go on furlough and deep cuts to government programs.

He sent a letter to all state representatives in which he vowed to veto a temporary spending measure, calling it a retreat from a budget deal he negotiated with legislative leaders.

"The commonwealth can little afford the devastating consequences of this stopgap budget," Wolf wrote.

Republicans who control the House plan to bring up a stopgap Tuesday after members voted down a pension bill this weekend that had been a critical element of the budget deal.

House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said the state has been without a budget since July 1, leading him to question why a stopgap that gets some money flowing would have to prompt furloughs.

"It defies reality," Miskin said. "Do I think he's bluffing? No, I think he's doing anything he can for leverage."

The Democratic governor said in the letter the furloughs would include more than 4,000 people in the Corrections and Probation and Parole departments, nearly 1,300 state police employees and nearly 1,000 human services workers. About 175 people who work in veterans' homes and more than 325 at the Department of Revenue also would be sent home.

Miskin said the personnel cuts in public safety would endanger people.

"Now he's going to threaten the safety of people's lives by furloughing state police officers, troopers? That's ludicrous," Miskin said.

Wolf told lawmakers the budget would lead to $455 million in school cuts and nearly $48 million from human services programs.

"Without any additional investment in education, school districts that have already adopted budgets will be forced to make severe adjustments leading to further cuts to teachers and programs and robbing districts of the opportunity to turn the corner on years of divesting cuts," Wolf wrote.

Wolf had said he has enough votes to pass a 6 percent spending increase the House has previously voted down. A vote on those taxes had been planned for Saturday but was scuttled after the pension bill was overwhelmingly defeated. Senate Republicans had linked support for higher taxes to the pension changes, which were opposed in the House by all Democrats and more than half the Republicans.