The people of Pennsylvania just think the state budget was resolved after 101 contentious days. It wasn’t. Because the Pennsylvania constitution requires a balanced budget we don’t actually have a budget. We have a proposed budget. So far revenues are coming in significantly below projections (surprise, surprise!) and the gambling income is nowhere to be seen.
The Governor’s plan to expand gambling to table games and provide $160 million in budget balancing revenue got stalled last evening. The House remained in session until 11 PM, when the new rules require it adjourn. Republicans proposed amendment after amendment to delay a vote until the witching hour came and went. Votes on funding for the four state related universities is held up until the revenues are provided and the table games are supposed to provide that revenue. Dems held up the approval of those funds until the table games are passed.
This would all be quite comical if the issues weren’t so important. Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln need these funds and Ed Rendell and Democrats see expanded gambling as the solution. Understanding how high risk gamblers Pennsylvanians are why not? I watch our fellow citizens gamble their lives every day when they drive, trading a few saved seconds against killing themselves or others. Whether running stop signs, red lights or passing in no passing zones, these high stakes risks are nothing compared with sitting at a blackjack table. I see the market for these games as unlimited due to the high number of idiots we have. Let’s roll the dice and let them take their gambling skills to our new casinos. It sure beats raising taxes. Maybe, just maybe, then we can afford enough police to make our roads safer. Personally I’d rather keep these gamblers in the casinos and off the roads.
Update: I almost forgot something important. The White House yesterday announced about $600 million in stimulus funding for community health centers. $28.6 million of that is coming to Pennsylvania. Vice President Biden’s Chief Economic Adviser Jared Bernstein was on the conference call about the announcement and I asked him whether they’d considered expanding the state fiscal assistance next year. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) provided a considerable amount of stimulus money to states this year to help balance budgets and avert layoffs. With revenues already below projections and the terrible time we had getting a budget this year I was wondering if more funds might be available next year. Dr. Christine Romer already said on a separate conference call Tuesday the White House is considering extending the state fiscal money after next year.
Bernstein said “I won’t get ahead of policies under discussion.” I take that to mean this is something being considered and they aren’t yet in a position to announce the policy. He said they understand the problem and “solutions are under discussion.”