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State Government Accused of Violating State’s Balanced Budget Requirement

Matt Brouillette, the president and CEO of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, Dauphin County businessman Ben Lewis and state Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) filed a lawsuit to compel the state government to uphold the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget.  

“Essentially all we’re asking from the court is to compel our state officials to abide by the law, adhere to their constitutional oath to defend and obey the constitution, the only oath they take as state officials, and fulfill their responsibilities to the people of Pennsylvania in that regard,” Brouillette told the Patriot News.  

The lawsuit was filed against Governor Tom Wolf, the General Assembly, state Treasurer Joe Torsella and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  

From the Patriot News:

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue Wolf violated his duties by failing to exercise line-item veto or freeze or cut spending in the enacted 2016-17 and 2017-18 budgets when the revenues were not available to support them. They seek the court to order the governor to take those actions when spending exceeds revenues.

Wolf Administration officials justified the governor’s decision to allow the appropriations bill to become law this year on the belief that the General Assembly would act in good faith and fully fund the $32 million budget they passed overwhelmingly. Administration officials indicated the governor would take steps to ensure actual expenditures do not “exceed the actual and estimated revenues and surplus available” as required by the constitution.

The lawsuit argues that the General Assembly violated its duty by passing a budget without the required revenues for it to be balanced.  It also argues that Torsella, Wolf, and DePasquale have exceeded the limits on debt and deficit spending.  

The lawsuit asks that the courts require the state’s budget secretary to ensure state spending kept pace with available money, rather than it being up to the Governor to either freeze spending or borrow to fund projects.

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