Last month, House Bill 649 (HB 649) passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives gaming oversight committee with a vote in favor of 18-8. At that point, many online gambling fans were excited because it seemed like the bill had a good chance of moving forward. Especially with the fact that the Pennsylvania budget is 150 days overdue, and everybody is trying to get a bill passed; the odds seemed good indeed. However, the vote, which was scheduled for December 8, was pushed back a day and ultimately it was decided to be postponed until next year.
Last Monday the Senate GOP approved a $30.8 billion spending plan for the state which included $350 million in extra funds for the school systems and a $1.2 billion tax increase. But this plan was rejected by the House Republicanswho then countered by introducing their own $30.3 billion spending bill.
The House Republicans strategy was to bring in that additional $120 million from online gambling revenue. This would be an annual amount in addition to a $5 million licensing fee per operator. When this online gambling bill was added as a part of the state’s budget efforts, it seemed like there was a good chance that it would pass. The vote easily passed the House of Representatives gaming oversight committee, and it seemed like it would simply slide by as a part of the official state budget. At the end of the day, though, this was not to be. The online gambling bill was pushed to next spring when there will be less stress from an overdue budget to cloud decisions.
The Pennsylvania state budget is still in disarray as many are against the Senate’s proposed package and its $350 million increase in public school spending. This is because it would be offset by the reduction of state and school pension payments by $170 million. Some believe that this is simply pushing the problem back until further down the road.
During a press release, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Pres. Rick Bloomingdale said that “We are deeply disappointed that the State Senate passed a bill that, over time, will leave future public sector workers and school employees in poverty. This is a bad deal for Pennsylvania which will end up costing taxpayers more for an inferior pension that jeopardizes the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of workers.”
Even Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder said it just “kicks the can down the road.”
It is clear that people are becoming frustrated with the lack of agreement on a new state budget. Even so, the state no longer will consider the HB 649 online gambling budget as a solution. Instead, Pennsylvania will turn to the tried and true methods of tax increases and lower pension plans. The current proposed budget only has one flaw now; nobody knows where to come up with the money.
Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph says, “There’s been a lot of talk in the Capitol regarding our framework, our lofty goals… But the toughest part of passing a budget in this framework is how to pay for it.”
Now if only there were some way to come up with another $100-$200 million extra dollars…
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