Wolf says he wants to do 'right thing' even if social services providers have to borrow money

Gov. Tom Wolf acknowledged Friday that nonprofit social services providers may have to borrow money during the state budget stalemate, but he said they should share his broader goal of doing the right thing for Pennsylvania.

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Spending on social services is not a major point of contention between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature in their 3-week-old stalemate. However, billions of dollars that would otherwise flow to counties and nonprofit groups that provide a range of social services, from addition counseling to child welfare help, are expected to be held up in a wider dispute over Wolf's priorities.

Wolf said he understands the concern over social services agencies having to foot the bill to borrow money while they wait for the state to reimburse them.

"Apparently, if they are forced to borrow money, the cost is not reimbursable in many cases by the state, so that is something that would not be good," he said in an interview on KQV-AM radio in Pittsburgh.

Wolf said he is doing everything he can to find ways to protect the social services agencies from being harmed by a longer impasse, although he did not say what, if anything, his administration is doing or could do.

"I want to make sure that the disruption is as little as possible, so I'll continue to work on that," Wolf said. "But ... in the long run, all of us, including the social services agencies, have a vested interest in making sure we do the right thing for Pennsylvania and that's what I'm focused on."

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Negotiations between Wolf and top Republican lawmakers appear to be moving slowly over how to close the gap between their competing plans.

Wolf wants a multibillion-dollar tax increase to help underwrite a $31.6 billion budget that would deliver a record funding boost to schools and wipe out a long-term deficit that has damaged Pennsylvania's creditworthiness. He also has insisted on legislation that would cut local school property taxes by more than $3 billion by raising state income and sales taxes to pick up the cost.

On June 30, Wolf vetoed a Republican-crafted $30.2 billion budget plan that passed without a single Democratic lawmaker voting for it. The plan did not raise taxes and contained a smaller boost for education than Wolf had sought while using what Democrats called more than $1 billion in one-time gimmicks to balance.

A version of legislation to cut property taxes passed the House but has stalled in the Senate amid criticism by Republicans that it would trade a temporary cut in property taxes for a permanent increase in sales and income taxes.