There appears to be agreement among Republican and Democratic leaders in Harrisburg that something needs to be done to help defray the expenses that Pennsylvania counties face following Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order last year requiring them to obtain new voting machines for the 2020 election.
But rather than wait for Rep. Gene DiGirolamo’s forthcoming proposal to work its way through the legislative process in the aftermath of the governor’s veto of another bill that would have sent some money to the counties, the governor’s office announced Tuesday that the Wolf administration would make use of existing bonding powers to drum up $90 million.
“Under the arrangement, the commonwealth would fund up to $90 million to reimburse counties for 60 percent of their actual costs to replace voting systems,” the governor’s office said in a news release. “The Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority (PEDFA) may issue bonds, and the Department of State would make grants available to counties.”
The news release also states that counties can apply for an extension until June 2021 to buy new voting machines, but those that meet the original deadline will get a greater cut of the state aid.
“Pennsylvania counties are well on their way to replacing their voting systems and I applaud their tremendous commitment to protecting our elections,” Wolf said in a statement. “I remain committed to supporting their efforts and this funding will help the counties to complete that process.”
Wolf’s move Tuesday drew the ire of House Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor, R-Red Lion, who called it an overreach of the governor’s powers. He said that lawmakers found out only an hour before the news release was sent out Tuesday regarding the governor’s intentions.
“The governor’s executive actions risk the good relationship that he has cultivated with the General Assembly over the last couple of months,” Saylor said in a statement. “So far, the governor has not stated his legal authority to bond $90 million without legislative approval. The House is currently reviewing all of its legal options to respond to this.”
Saylor pointed out that Senate Bill 48, which the governor vetoed last week, would have addressed the needs of the counties to pay for election machines.
“The governor’s action today is another example of executive overreach, like his $200 million Farm Show borrowing deal which was done without legislative approval,” Saylor said. “This continued march away from normal legislative order undermines the fabric of our constitutional democracy.”