Looking at the numbers…And they aren’t pretty. The anticipated April revenue numbers were released earlier this week which gave a first glimpse into the financial impact COVID-19 is having on the Commonwealth. The impact was, sadly, as expected…devastating. The Department of Revenue reported that the state’s General Fund collected $2.2 billion less than budgeted in the month of April representing a 49.7% drop. This is a staggering figure given it’s only a look at the month of April.
The impact to the state’s Motor License Fund (MLF) was equally worrisome. The MLF is the constitutionally protected fund that is the lifeblood of PennDOT’s highway construction program. It was reported that the MLF received $173.1 million for the month, $99.6 million below estimate. To date, the MLF is now running about 5% below estimate.
What does all this mean? During Monday’s teleconference with Acting PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian, Executive Deputy Secretary George McAuley, and Highway Administration Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula, click HERE to view a summary of that webinar, it was reported that PennDOT anticipates an $800 million decrease in MLF revenues by year end due to the impact of COVID. Additionally, it was reported that the original 2020 highway construction letting projection of $2.2 billion would likely fall to around the $1.8 to $1.9 billion level.
At this moment, it is anyone’s guess what the final impact will be on the highway construction program. The impact could be lessened should the federal government pass a national infrastructure stimulus package that is currently under consideration in Washington. GO HERE for more information.
In the end, APC will be closely monitoring and providing information to our members on the ongoing fiscal situation facing the state and the letting program.
And if that wasn’t enough. The sharp divide between the Wolf Administration and the General Assembly continued in harsh fashion this week. Several committee hearings and public events took place calling for drastic COVID response reforms. For example, some senators called for the resignation of the Secretary of the Department of Labor & Industry; some questioned the decisions of PA Liquor Control Board members to shut down the state liquor stores; and others called for changes in how COVID case data is collected which is being used to make the various re-opening decisions. All this to say that the political environment in Harrisburg continues to be frayed at best.
A New Deal in the works? With approximately 1.7 million people filing unemployment claims in Pennsylvania—the highest total since the Great Depression—the Governor unveiled a new initiative creating a “Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps.” The Governor says the program will help the state contain the spread of the Coronavirus as regional re-openings get underway. He said the program will also provide jobs to Pennsylvanians while helping the state administer a contact tracing plan to monitor the spread of COVID-19. The program is designed to help reduce the state’s unemployment rate as well. This, of course, met sharp criticism from many republicans in the House and Senate.