- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed legislation that passed along with the Pennsylvania budget, citing concerns about how it divides money for schools, borrows $2.5 billion, affects greenhouse gas emissions at power plants and regulates oil and gas drilling.

The 101-page fiscal code bundles together a variety of items to implement the state budget. Wolf’s one-page letter to state representatives sent the bill back to the House.

House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said the veto was being reviewed and leaders were talking with their Senate colleagues to determine if they will take any action. He said no decision has been made about whether to seek to override Wolf’s veto.

“There’s nothing new in the fiscal code and there are things the administration has agreed to previously,” Miskin said. “Also, some of their assumptions are just wrong, but we’re reviewing and will make decisions later.”

Wolf said the legislation has a school funding distribution formula he considers one of the most unfair in the country and that bond borrowing was being expanded without addressing the state’s structural deficit.

Jeff Sheridan, the governor’s spokesman, said last week the administration will pass out school subsidies “in the most appropriate manner possible, just as we did in December when the governor signed a partial general appropriations bill that was without an accompanying fiscal code because the legislature did not pass one.”

The provisions in the code regarding the state’s clean power plan would give the House and Senate each the ability to reject it before it goes to the federal government for its approval, Wolf told lawmakers in his letter.

“This procedure not only permits an improper one-house veto, but also calls for an unwarranted intrusion upon executive authority, and I will not assent to these legislative decisions,” Wolf wrote.

He said the fiscal code also would invalidate oil and gas regulations related to conventional drilling that have been in the works for more than two years.

“This termination of the regulatory process would present a significant obstacle to (the Department of Environmental Protection)’s efforts to enhance environmental safeguards for conventional oil and gas development,” he told the House. “I do not consider this legislative proposal as being in the best interests of this commonwealth.”

Senate Republican leaders said language included in the main budget bill spells out that $150 million of the spending plan requires the fiscal code to be enacted in order for Wolf to spend it. The budget bill became law just after midnight - but without a signature from the governor, who insists it does not balance and does nothing to close a large structural deficit. Wolf’s veto also eliminated $289 million that would have reimbursed school districts for construction and renovation, they said.

“The governor has claimed to place money for schools above all else, but in the end it was not his priority, given his willingness to continually use his veto to cut millions of dollars from schools,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre.

The Legislature’s reliance on the fiscal code, despite the state constitution’s requirement that laws be restricted to a single subject, has attracted the attention of state courts, most recently in December, when Commonwealth Court ruled against Senate leaders to say then-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, properly used his line-item veto power in 2014 to blue-line the Legislature’s spending.

Senate leaders of both parties filed a notice of appeal in January to the state Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania’s fiscal year starts July 1, so the heart of the state’s annual budget season is just a few weeks away.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide