State budget dramas: Latest in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware

Christie vs Insurer Budget
The Assembly chambers at the New Jersey State House were quiet on Sunday amid the government shutdown.

As the new fiscal year started for state governments, the tri-state area had a dubious distinction: Not one state had a budget in place on time.

Pennsylvania’s legislature has passed a budget but no plan to pay for it. New Jersey’s state government was shut down for three days. And Delaware lawmakers ultimately reached an overtime budget deal.

Here’s the latest on where things stand in each state.

Pennsylvania

The status: Pennsylvania has a spending plan, but not a revenue package. Gov. Wolf let the $32 billion spending plan sent to him by the legislature lapse into law without his signature. Now, lawmakers must continue work to come up with a way to pay for that plan.

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The backstory: Wolf and the legislature must figure out how to cover a project shortfall of $2 billion for the 2016-17 fiscal year and the one that just started. That budget gap has left lawmakers haggling for weeks to figure out how to pay for it. Discussions have included expanding gambling or borrowing money; Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature have rejected Wolf’s calls to raise the personal income or sales tax, or enact a tax on natural-gas drilling.

Read more: Pa. Capitol’s ‘B’ word for solving budget woes: Borrowing

What’s next: The state House and Senate are to reconvene Tuesday. After that session, members could be sent home, possibly for several weeks, raising the possibility of a lengthy impasse. The governor, however, has said he hopes the legislature will swiftly deliver a revenue package.

New Jersey

The status: The state government has reopened after a three-day shutdown. Lawmakers missed a 12:01 a.m. Saturday deadline to pass a balanced budget, making state parks and beaches inaccessible to everyone except Gov. Christie and his family, closing state functions that included Motor Vehicle Commission agencies and inspection stations, and briefly furloughing tens of thousands of state workers. Early Tuesday, Christie signed a $34.7 billion spending plan into law.

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The backstory: The crux of the impasse was that Christie conditioned his support for the Democratic-controlled legislature’s budget on lawmakers’ passing of a bill that would restructure Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and require Horizon, the state’s largest insurer, to dedicate “excess” surplus to policyholders and public health programs. The demand has resulted in Democratic in-fighting. The new Horizon law establishes a “cap” on the insurer’s surplus.

Read more: How health-insurer debate ground Christie’s Trenton to a halt

Delaware

The latest: The Delaware legislature missed its budget deadline for the first time in decades, but reached a deal Sunday on a spending plan. The budget restores cut funding to nonprofits, public health program and schools, and raises taxes on real estate transfers, tobacco and alcohol, the Delaware News Journal reports. Gov. Jay Carney signed the budget early Monday.

The backstory: Budget gridlock had lasted for months over a Democratic push to raise the personal income tax and disagreement over changes to the prevailing wage for state construction projects, among other issues.