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Wolf pins Pennsylvania's budget mess on Corbett, isn't ready to say how to he'd fix it

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YORK, Pennsylvania — The Corbett administration's budget chief on Wednesday defended the use of one-time stopgaps to offset $2 billion in Pennsylvania state spending in the current year, saying they helped avert higher taxes, while Gov.-elect Tom Wolf called it "unacceptable" and said he is still not convinced officials know the depth of next year's deficit.

Budget Secretary Charles Zogby's annual midyear analysis of state finances prompted a critical response from the incoming Democratic governor at his first news conference since he ousted Republican incumbent Tom Corbett in the Nov. 4 election.

Wolf, a wealthy businessman, said he would not propose any corrective measures until that group finishes its work even though those issues were debated at length during the months leading up to the election.

"I want to make sure that we have a sense of how serious this problem is," Wolf said at a hotel about 25 miles south of the Capitol in Harrisburg. "I do not want to go into this with anybody being under the misapprehension that somehow I caused this.

"I am inheriting a problem, a big problem," said Wolf, who was joined at the news conference by Josh Shapiro, a Montgomery County commissioner who is helping lead a panel that is working with him on budget-related issues.

Wolf blamed Corbett's conservative fiscal policies.

"This is the fourth year of an ideology that was supposed to produce all kinds of great solutions and great results for Pennsylvania," Wolf said. "I don't think it's just the matter of the management style. I think we actually have a failed ideology here."

Zogby said the stopgaps shielded Pennsylvanians from increases in broad-based taxes while allowing a modest spending increase in a $29 billion budget that is projected to be a puny $1 million in the black when the fiscal year ends June 30.

But he also acknowledged that additional "adjustments" in the budget will be necessary to cover at least $286 million in unexpected expenses and projected revenues that are not going to materialize.

"I don't think that any of this should be a surprise" to people familiar with the budgeting process, Zogby said. "It's going to be a challenge, just as it has been every year."

The refusal of the GOP-controlled Legislature to make deeper cuts to offset increased spending also has complicated the budget process, Zogby said.

"We've hit the wall in terms of what people in this building are willing to cut," he said.

Wolf's inauguration is scheduled for Jan. 20.

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