The Pennsylvania Legislature has had a nearly impossible time balancing and funding a budget during the last two years. And taxpayers aren’t the only ones suffering.
A proposal from the House last week would pull money from the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund to make the 2017-18 budget solvent. The move is controversial to say the least. And it has proponents of the state’s gaming bill fearing Pennsylvania won’t be counting on gambling expansion dollars anymore.
Op-ed slams quick-fix budget raiding
The proposal isn’t winning the hearts and minds of the press at present. Penn Live launched a scathing op-ed of the House’s plan, emphatically rejecting legislators’ plans to raid other funds.
Pillaging the Tobacco Fund is nothing more than a short-sighted solution, the paper argues:
“This one-year fix is the worst possible idea because it not only pushes the solution to our structural deficit off to another year, but it deepens the problem. House leaders must recognize that we need recurring revenues and bring a tax code bill to the floor. “
Passing the current gambling bill would be a method of ensuring those “recurring revenues.” It would open up a floodgate of money via online gambling and virtual gambling terminals (VGTs) placed in taverns.
How the House plan affects gambling
There’s no definitive word on how gambling fits into the funding proposal from the House. If House Republicans had their way, the revenue plan would include VGTs and would generate the $200 million proposed in the bill.
However, that revenue is theoretical. It doesn’t exist until the bill passes the House and Senate and gets the signature of Gov. Tom Wolf. And the House drawing from existing funds isn’t a good omen for the bill.
Gambling was a priority when the bill was drafted and presented in the House early this year. It even seemed like it had the momentum to make it to the governor’s desk.
However, it stalled over the VGT issue and is now buried under an acute sense of urgency about the state budget.