Notice of Veto
[36 Pa.B. 6845]
[Saturday, November 11, 2006]
October 27, 2006
To the Honorable, the House of Representatives
of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
I am returning House Bill 1813 without my approval.
I am vetoing this bill because, without regard for fluctuations in state revenues or growth in other, mandated obligations, the legislation establishes an annual increase in the obligation of state funds for reimbursement to mental health and mental retardation providers. Enactment of this bill will increase state expenditures by $75 million in the first year and cumulatively by $1.2 billion over five years. None of this funding is included in our current budget projections.
The providers impacted by House Bill 1813 have received a 2% cost of living increase in their grants in each of the last three years, resulting in an actual increase in the level of these grants of 6.1% since July 1, 2004. The annual 2% cost of living increase is entirely consistent with the annual increase level paid to these providers in the second term of the Ridge/Schweiker Administration.
Overall, between the base funding increase and increase in funds to enable the expansion of services, providers of mental health and mental retardation services have received a 19.24% increase in funding--$338 million in new funds--since July 1, 2003. These funding increases have enabled providers to remove almost 3,000 individuals from the waiting lists. In spite of these improvements, I remain concerned that waiting lists for these critical services persist, and I believe a more substantial increase in the grants is warranted. In the coming year, if our revenues and other expenditure demands permit us to increase the reimbursement rate more than 2% next year, I will propose doing so.
I am entirely sympathetic to the plight of these providers and very much value the extraordinary work they do. But, I do find it perplexing that so many members of the legislature who advocated for the passage of legislation imposing annual caps on state spending voted for this automatic five year growth in state expenditures of more than $1 billion in the middle of the fiscal year.
I have proven over the past four years that the commonwealth can be fiscally responsible, maintain a balanced budget, and still make steady progress toward meeting the needs of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. I have, in the past, and will continue, in the future, to provide additional funding for vital human services. But, I have consistently enforced a ''pay as you go policy'' when it comes to the state budget--expenditure increases must not be legislated on an ad-hoc basis during the fiscal year. I will not sign legislation that either significantly increases spending or reduces revenue without a specific plan to pay for it. Such legislation should be passed in the disciplined context of building our annual comprehensive balanced budget.
For these reasons I must withhold my signature for House Bill 1813. I reiterate that I remain hopeful we can achieve progress toward this goal in our next budget.
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 06-2191. Filed for public inspection November 9, 2006, 9:00 a.m.]
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