Pennsylvania Budget Dispute Hits New Snag
Pennsylvania lawmakers have been desperate to find a solution to solve the state’s budget issues. Lawmakers were optimistic that a deal would be struck last week, but a new roadblock has emerged. Pennsylvania still has a huge $2.2 billion hole in the budget, and this is the fourth consecutive month of negotiations between lawmakers.
It was reported that the local House of Representatives was set to introduce a new budget plan on Tuesday after its most recent plan was voted down by the state’s Senate. Unfortunately, no new plan has come to fruition. Members of the House held closed-door discussions, but no plan has yet been revealed.
No Tax Hikes
The House is adamant that any new budget plan should avoid increases in taxes. In spite of that, the most recent plan introduced by the House included an increase in the Pennsylvania hotel tax, which would have forced the state’s two biggest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, to pay the highest state-and-city hotel taxes in the country.
That idea was immediately contested, and it sounds as though it is being put on the backburner for now. Pennsylvania’s Governor, Tom Wolf, additionally expressed his frustrations at the lack of progress in negotiations. He told other legislators that he may have to take unilateral action if the current stalemate is not resolved sometime soon. He does not believe this is the best way to create policy, but he may have no choice.
Governor Wolf also said that he plans to borrow $1.2 billion from Pennsylvania’s Liquor Control Board. That money will be raised against eventual contributions the board will make to Pennsylvania’s state coffers. It will then be used to coffer an old budget deficit from the last fiscal year.
Gambling Legalization a Potential Solution?
Gambling has been a hot topic regarding the state’s budget crisis. Pennsylvania is in desperate need of additional revenue, and potentially legalizing and regulating gambling in the state has been raised as a potential solution.
Lawmakers from both chambers and from both sides of the aisle, as well as Governor Wolf, have said publicly that recurring revenue is a must. Gambling is a potential solution, but lawmakers from both the Senate and the House have still not come to an agreement regarding how Pennsylvania’s gambling industry should be properly used in order to address the budget deficit.
Legalizing online gambling as well as daily fantasy sports has been a topic of discussion on several occasions since the calendar flipped to 2017. That said, it is currently unknown whether those two issues will remain in play for future budget discussions.
iGaming and DFS
Internet gaming and DFS legalization was a part of a larger gambling expansion package introduced earlier in the year in an attempt by lawmakers to find that additional revenue. That bill eventually died thanks in part to the debate over “video gaming terminals.” Slot-like machines are currently legal at certain Pennsylvania truck stops and bars, but they lack proper regulation.
Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives has been supportive of the legalization of video gaming terminals, but the Senate has been against VGTs due to concerns over potential gambling addiction problems. There have also been concerns that those machines would effectively take revenue away from some of the state’s existing land-based casinos because they will be more easily-accessible to players.
Budget discussions are set to get back underway on October 16.
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