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The state should pay

Published October 13. 2009 05:00PM

It wasn't any county's fault that Pennsylvania went 101 days without a state budget.

Don't blame the school districts or the social services agencies who rely on state funding to subsidize their operations either.

Why then should they be responsible for footing the bill?

According to an Associated Press story, some counties, social services providers and school districts that borrowed money to replace state subsidies held up by the 101-day budget impasse said Monday that they want the state to repay the interest. They said repayment is a matter of basic fairness, and they plan to bring the issue up this week with Gov. Ed Rendell's administration.

We think the state should be responsible for the payment of the interest. No one else is to blame. It was our state lawmakers who couldn't come to terms with a new budget for 3 1/2 months.

Tony Ross, president of the United Way of Pennsylvania, said he believes social service agencies may have borrowed enough to incur interest of $5 million to $10 million.

"These agencies maintained their commitment to the public without compensation for three months," Ross said. "They didn't say, 'We're not getting paid, we're not going to maintain our commitment to the public and the commonwealth."'

Many school districts and counties were also responsible to taking out bridge loans to keep their districts afloat while they awaited a budget. As of now they are responsible for paying the interest on those loans, and this isn't fair.

Gov. Ed Rendell said Friday that he had not considered the matter (or repaying the interest), and when asked said it would depend on whether the state can afford it.

"I'm willing to take a look at it, but we'd have to know what the total was," he said.

The governor had 101 days to think about it, and now it's time to pay back the districts, counties and agencies that suffered through this 3 1/2-month nightmare.

Things have been bad enough, with some school districts and agencies considering closing their facilities had a new budget not been reached last Friday.

To make them pay the interest back for securing funds that enabled them to keep their commitment to the public would be adding insult to injury.

Bob Urban

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