Pennsylvania’s constitution calls for the state to adopt a budget for the next fiscal year by June 30, the end of its fiscal year, but it is looking more and more as if the legislature and governor will miss that deadline this year.
Although budgets typically come easily when the same party controls the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the General Assembly, the state’s revenue shortfall, a structural deficit that will carry over into next year, and the introduction of additional issues into the budget process appear to be slowing progress toward adopting a spending plan for the state’s 2015 fiscal year.
To reinforce the notion that June 30 may come and go without a budget adopted, state Senate majority leader Dominic Pileggi recently told members of his Republican caucus to put their fourth of July celebration plans on hold because their work for the legislative season may not be done.
At stake for Pennsylvania’s safety-net hospitals is funding for the state’s Medicaid program. The budget includes numerous items that may prove tempting for officials to prune in search of money to close the current revenue shortfall. Most tempting may be millions in Tobacco Uncompensated Care Fund revenue frozen by the Corbett administration last year in response to an arbitrator’s decision to reduce the state’s proceeds from the national tobacco settlement.
Tobacco Uncompensated Care funds help underwrite some of the $1 billion in charity care Pennsylvania’s hospitals provide annually – more than 40 percent of it provided by the 25 percent of acute-care hospitals in the state that are safety-net hospitals. The Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania (SNAP) is conveying its concern about the possibility of reducing this funding to legislators.