Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wolf: Pa. Could Borrow Funds Gov. Calls Part of Cash Shortfall 'Onetime Gap'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wolf: Pa. Could Borrow Funds Gov. Calls Part of Cash Shortfall 'Onetime Gap'

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG - With two days until the deadline to pass a state budget, Gov. Tom Wolf signaled on Wednesday that he could be willing to borrow more than $1 billion to help balance the state's books.

Speaking to reporters after a bill-signing outside the Capitol, Mr. Wolf characterized a portion of the state's steep cash shortfall as "a onetime gap." He said he was open to borrowing as long as the GOP-controlled Legislature also comes up with ways to raise new dollars to prevent future deficits.

When asked how much that onetime gap was, the Democratic governor said it was between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.

"For that one time, I'm comfortable," Mr. Wolf added when asked what he would be comfortable borrowing, although he avoided a firm dollar amount.

Mr. Wolf's comments were the first signs that budget negotiators are seriously considering a significant loan to solve the state's $1.5 billion shortfall in this fiscal year.

Senate Republican leaders last week confirmed that they were discussing borrowing against money that flows annually into a state fund set up as part of the landmark 1998 multistate settlement with tobacco companies.

"We want to do as little as possible, obviously," Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, has said.

Until Mr. Wolf's remarks, no one would put a ceiling on it.

On Wednesday, House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin would say only that his caucus was open to learning more about the idea of borrowing to balance the budget. But he said members had not seen a proposal or come to a conclusion about its merits.

"It's hard to say yes and it's hard to say no when there's actually nothing in front of you," he said.

Mr. Wolf has said repeatedly that he does not want the budget to rely on one-time fixes. The $32.3 billion proposal he unveiled in February called for a mix of new revenue and savings through consolidating various state departments. He did not propose borrowing money to cover state expenses.

That idea was first floated this month by Senate Republicans as word spread through the Capitol that there were still major disagreements over other plans to raise new dollars. …

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