PA General Assembly Battles Over New Budget

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Over the past few months, Pennsylvania’s state legislature has been engaged in a battle over how to balance the state’s budget. It currently seems that a bipartisan plan originating in the Senate is in the lead. But this week, 16 House Republicans proposed an alternative plan that would significantly affect the state’s transportation services, among other things. According to the legislators who created it, the object of the plan is to avoid a tax increase on Pennsylvanians, while still covering the state’s needs. One way the plan intends to do this is by extracting money from the fiscal reserves of various public projects and services. The drafters of the plan said this would work because the funds are projected to have surpluses for several years, and because they are not currently being used for anything, making them “idle.”

Two important funds this plan would affect are the Public Transit Trust Fund and the Multimodal Transportation Fund. Both of these funds are used to support public transportation systems like Pittsburgh’s Port Authority, as well as to keep roads, bridges and bike paths in good condition. The Republican budget plan would result in the transfer of $357 million from the Public Transit fund to the general fund of Pennsylvania, along with another $120 million deducted from the Multimodal Transportation fund. These changes would leave the Public Transit fund with only around a quarter of its current resources, and the Multimodal fund with even less. According to information obtained the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph, the proposed budget plan could result in an $80 million decrease in resources available to the Port Authority if it is signed into law. This would translate to a 50% decrease in public transit routes in the county, so some Obama students will probably be affected by the change. In the meantime, as long as lawmakers cannot come to an agreement regarding the budget, Pennsylvania will edge ever closer to financial trouble.

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