October 30, 2017 / 10:06 PM / a year ago

Pennsylvania governor signs revenue bills to wrap up stalled budget

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct 30 (Reuters) - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Monday signed a set of bills to provide $2.3 billion in new revenue for the state and end a four-month impasse with lawmakers over how to pay for the state’s fiscal 2018 budget.

Lawmakers had approved a $32 billion spending plan on June 30 for the current fiscal year, but they could not agree until last week on how to raise enough new revenue to close a yawning deficit of more than $2 billion.

The new legislation will boost revenues in part by expanding gambling and securitizing expected funding from tobacco companies for healthcare costs.

That money comes from big tobacco companies that agreed in a 1998 settlement with U.S. states to help cover medical costs associated with smoking and tobacco use.

“While this provides much-needed funds to fix our broken deficit, the process shows that Harrisburg is still broken,” Wolf said in a statement.

He did not sign legislation that details education funding, however, leaving that key area open for a potential veto.

Connecticut is now the only state in the nation without a fully enacted budget.

Under the legislation signed by Wolf, Pennsylvania will become the fourth U.S. state to allow online gambling, in addition to Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada.

The move, which permits online gambling for the first time by both casinos and the Pennsylvania Lottery, is expected to yield an estimated $200 million annually in licensing and tax revenue.

Ten of the state’s 12 casinos will also each be allowed to build a smaller, satellite casino. Video gaming machines will be allowed in airports and some truck stops.

Much of the revenue package signed by Wolf is made up of securitizing $1.5 billion in revenues from the state’s tobacco settlement, which Wolf said must still be approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.

Wolf, a Democrat, did not win approval from the Republican-controlled legislative for one of his biggest goals: an extraction tax on the state’s natural gas industry. (Reporting by David DeKok in Harrisburg; Editing by Hilary Russ in New York)

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