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When a Government Can’t Pass a Budget

The federal government has been operating without a budget since October 1, but a stop-gap bill was passed in September, and another yesterday, to avoid a government shutdown and to provide continued funding for government agencies.  The impasse is over a $1.1 trillion spending bill.

Budgets impasses are not unique to the federal government alone – Pennsylvania and Illinois have been unable to pass states budgets or temporary spending bills.

At the state level, the lack of funding has severely impacted education, food banks, and shelters throughout both states.

One place the negative impact is prevalent is in education.  Three Pennsylvania schools may not reopen after the holiday break because a majority of their funding comes from the state and borrowing from banks imposes other issues.

“It seems absolutely ridiculous that we’re forced to go to banks for money,” Greenville school board President Dennis Webber said about PA’s impasse, which could force the school district to borrow from banks and incur astronomical fees. “The bottom line is they (the state) have the money in their coffers. They’re collecting sales tax from every business in the state of Pennsylvania.”

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry reported in October that 17 PA school districts borrowed money for operations, totaling $346 million.

Illinois is also feeling the brunt of indecision.  Approximately 150,000 employees have a hold on their health care while drastically reducing staff in areas like domestic violence and sexual assault, like Illinois offices have in Jo Daviess and Carroll County, while the state battles to work out a bill.

It is noteworthy to mention that during a budget impasse, Congress and state elected officials earn their full paycheck.  It’s written into law, although Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn) introduced legislation at the federal level, and PA State Senator Rob Teplitz at the state level, that would change that.

“This legislation would require the Congress to work full time – with no salary – during any government shutdown until they pass a bill to fund our government and pay the public employees who go to work on our behalf every day,” Nolan said in September.

“I have not accepted my September paycheck,” PA Senator Judy Schwank told The Mercury via email, “and will not accept future paychecks until a budget is adopted that re-invests in schools and Pennsylvania’s brighter future.”

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