Patriot News: Those hardest hit by latest Pa. state budget veto says there’s enough blame for everybody

By Charles Thompson

The next best chance to ease the squeeze from Pennsylvania’s protracted state budget stalemate fizzled Tuesday when Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed an emergency stopgap funding bill.

It sets up a situation, statewide, where a budget stalemate that’s been invisible for most Pennsylvanians to date could soon start hitting a lot more of us in ways large and small.

Consider:

* In Carbondale, the school board has authorized the superintendent to explore a temporary closure of schools.

* In Harrisburg, some pre-kindergarten classes are being cancelled.

* In Scranton, mid-day meals at senior centers may be suspended.

* In various counties across the state, supports to families with adult children with intellectual disabilities are being eroded, and key learning opportunities for children from birth to age five with development delays are threatened.

There’s a rising tide of anger and frustration, to be sure.

But most human service providers who will be among the first to feel the effects of Tuesday’s veto seemed inclined to blame both Wolf, the veto-maker, and the state legislators he’s negotiating with for their troubles.

“I understand the fight for more money,” Gina Barkley, administrator of Bright Futures Learning Center of Harrisburg, said of Wolf’s veto Tuesday afternoon.

“But it feels like nobody considered that we would be the carnage in the meantime. It (the veto) is like a slap in the face, and I’m also offended that the senators and representatives are still getting paid while we work and we don’t get paid.”

The stopgap, if signed into law, was designed to get state funding flowing into schools and many human service programs through October, allowing maintenance of services while Wolf and Republican legislative leaders resolve their differences over taxes and spending.

Bright Futures, Barkley said, has already cancelled two pre-k classes because of a lack of funds and may have to close three others serving 86 kids within days unless its staff members agree to work without pay.

In Scranton, Kristen Kosin, executive director of Meals On Wheels of Northeastern Pennsylvania, voiced similar frustrations.

“I’m incredibly frustrated right now,” Kosin said, as she pondered the possibility of closing down the group meal service her agency provides at a number of senior centers around Lackawanna County by mid-October.

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