Governor Wolf Vetoes Fiscal Code Bill Related to Pennsylvania Budget

Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed the state's fiscal code, which was passed along with the Pennsylvania budget, citing concerns about how it divides money for schools, borrows $2.5 billion, affects greenhouse gas emissions at power plants and regulates oil and gas drilling.

The first-term Democrat made the fiscal code his first veto of the year Friday afternoon, two days after he announced he was going to let the Republican-crafted main budget bill become law without his signature.

The 101-page fiscal code bundles together a variety of items to implement the state budget. Wolf's one-page letter to state representatives sent the bill back to the House.

House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said the veto was being reviewed and leaders were talking with their Senate colleagues to determine if they will take any action. He said no decision has been made about whether to seek to override Wolf's veto.

"There's nothing new in the fiscal code and there are things the administration has agreed to previously,'' Miskin said. "Also, some of their assumptions are just wrong, but we're reviewing and will make decisions later.''

Wolf said the legislation has a school funding distribution formula he considers one of the most unfair in the country and that bond borrowing was being expanded without addressing the state's structural deficit.

Jeff Sheridan, the governor's spokesman, said last week the administration will pass out school subsidies "in the most appropriate manner possible, just as we did in December when the governor signed a partial general appropriations bill that was without an accompanying fiscal code because the legislature did not pass one.''

The provisions in the code regarding the state's clean power plan would give the House and Senate each the ability to reject it before it goes to the federal government for its approval, Wolf told lawmakers in his letter.

"This procedure not only permits an improper one-house veto, but also calls for an unwarranted intrusion upon executive authority, and I will not assent to these legislative decisions,'' Wolf wrote.

He said the fiscal code also would invalidate oil and gas regulations related to conventional drilling that have been in the works for more than two years.

"This termination of the regulatory process would present a significant obstacle to (the Department of Environmental Protection)'s efforts to enhance environmental safeguards for conventional oil and gas development,'' he told the House. "I do not consider this legislative proposal as being in the best interests of this commonwealth.''

The Legislature's reliance on the fiscal code, despite the state constitution's requirement that laws be restricted to a single subject, has attracted the attention of state courts, most recently in December, when Commonwealth Court ruled against Senate leaders to say then-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, properly used his line-item veto power in 2014 to blue-line the Legislature's spending.

Senate leaders of both parties filed a notice of appeal in January to the state Supreme Court.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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