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Governor Wolf, Republicans face impasse over budget shortfall

Pennsylvanians who pay attention to politics know that over the last several months, there has been gridlock in Congress over how to deal with a budget shortfall. One of the biggest issues in the budget impasse is how to deal with lack of funding to human services. One example of the effect of the shortfall is that agencies contracting with York County human services are not receiving any payments, though the problems are more widespread than just York County. According to some sources, these agencies are going to have to take out lines of credit, or possibly start cutting staff, to remain afloat.

House Republicans have proposed a stop-gap funding budget to address the problem, but this plan has been vehemently rejected by Governor Wolf, who says the proposal is “embracing a failed status quo that is holding Pennsylvania back.”  The inability to come up with a constructive solution to the stalemate has prompted the suggestion—from the president commissioner of Governor Wolf’s home county of York County—that perhaps mediation could serve as an avenue of resolving the dispute. 

The idea behind the suggestion, naturally, is that the Governor and Republicans are so locked into their respective positions on the budget issue that there is a need to come up with constructive solutions outside the ordinary course of political negotiation in order to prevent a prolonged budget shortfall. Mediation, of course, is not always successful. Much of the potential success of mediation, regardless of the dispute, lies in the parties’ willingness to expand their perspectives and step out of their rigid stances on the issues in dispute.

There are various ways that this can happen, depending on the nature of the dispute, the parties participating in the mediation and the creativity and skill of the mediator. In our next post, we’ll take a brief look at what Republicans want in the budget dispute as well as what Governor Wolf wants, and see if we can’t suggest some potential directions mediation could go in this case. 

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