PA Budget On Track As Plumbing Licensure Stalls Again

PA Budget On Track As Plumbing Licensure Stalls Again

By: Brent Sailhamer, Director of Government Affairs, ABC Keystone

With hours to spare, the Pennsylvania legislature overwhelmingly passed a $31.9 billion spending plan last week, sending the plan to Governor Wolf. The only problem? - Days later, legislators still haven’t agreed on how to pay for the plan.

The legislature adjourned for the July 4th holiday hours after passing a general appropriations, or spending, plan for the coming fiscal year. They passed on a Fiscal Code, however, leaving no plan for how to raise the revenue to pay for the bill they sent to the Governor. Because of that oversight, Governor Wolf has withheld his signature and has until Monday to determine what action to take.

A major component to this year’s budget was the inclusion of agency consolidation measures, first proposed by Governor Wolf in February. The plan calls for the consolidation of four state agencies: the Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs (DDAP), the Department of Health, the Department of Aging, and the Department of Human Services. The move will save an estimated $104 million initially and recurring savings through the efficiency of operations in future years. But, continued pension obligations and existing spending commitments still leave a deficit in current revenues, so lawmakers are looking to the expansion of gaming for help. Under the tentative plan, gaming operations in Pennsylvania would include expansion throughout taverns and airports and include internet gaming and potential sports betting. While the Senate Republican caucus has previously indicated an unwillingness to rely on so-called “sin taxes,” gaming expansion and a plan to borrow against future tobacco settlement payments seem to be the only viable options as time grows short.

Meanwhile, proponents of two plumbing licensure bills continue to work hard to advance those measures. Two weeks ago, the House passed House Bill 442, introduced by Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver), by a slim 105-91 margin. Last week, the Senate indicated their plan to move their own plumbing licensure legislation, Senate Bill 183, introduced by Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware). The plan stalled, however, when the bill appeared on the agenda for the Senate Appropriations Committee and members received heavy opposition from a number of groups, including ABC, the Laborers International Union (LIUNA), and the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA). Senate leadership quickly found a major shortfall in support for the bill and tabled future action. While proponents of the bill, including the Plumbers Local 690, continue to push for action, ABC continues to oppose both bills.