PA budget gamble online saga

PA Budget Update: Plenty Of Ups, Plenty Of Downs


Remember the days when we all thought Pennsylvania’s proposed gambling expansion bill was a lock?

Not so much anymore, after a series of budget funding failures and what seems to be an immovable hurdle of partisanship has gashed not only hopes that Pennsylvania will see online gambling, but also hopes that the state will muster up funding for its 2017-2018 budget.

October, Part 1: Budget on verge of collapse

The summer and early fall were witnesses to lawmakers moving away from a budget funding package that included $200 million from the proposed gambling bill to cherry picking from various budgets to pay for the upcoming fiscal year.

Those plans fell through, leaving lawmakers at a bit of an impasse as to how to fund the state’s budget. Not only that, but, with every funding failure, the chances for the PA gambling expansion bill seemed to decrease.

Through September and the first few days of October lawmakers labored to find a solution. The House had a funding package that was anticipated to pass, but on the morning of Oct. 4, it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen.

Hotel tax dooms proposal, Gov. Wolf responds

The House’s new funding plan included an increased hotel tax that ended up being the reason why the plan didn’t pass, leading experts to liken the failed proposal to an implosion.

The failure led Gov. Tom Wolf to consider borrowing against future budgets to make ends meet, CBS Philly reported.

“What started out as a week of promise that a resolution to Pennsylvania’s months-long budget impasse ended Wednesday with finger-pointing, and (Wolf) announcing his own plan to borrow to address the state’s budget gap,” reporter Tony Romeo wrote.

October, Part 2: Inklings of progress form a lawmaker

All seemed lost in the wake of the budget proposal that met its end the first week of October.

However, reports out of Harrisburg are that at least one lawmaker is optimistic about the budget’s funding and the gambling expansion bill.

Erie News spoke with Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, who talked about a few of the spending nuances in the failed budget. Despite those failures and his own “no” vote, he believes there’s still hope for the gambling bill.

“I don’t see how they do not have gaming as part of this equation moving forward,” Bizzarro said. “It appears it’s going to be a productive week.”

Along with this positive prognostication, Bizzarro said what many of us are thinking about lawmakers’ inability to pass funding for a budget that was approved at the beginning of the summer.

“It’s inexcusable to not have a revenue package three months after you have the spending plan,” he said.