Frustrated by a budget impasse that shows no signs of breaking, Delaware County will suspend payments to human service providers for services next week and is considering withholding funds it is legally required to transfer to the state, officials said Wednesday.
"Today, County Council stands in support of every staff member and provider we have who helps people in need in Delaware County," councilman Dave White said at a news conference. "They deserve state funding. They deserve a state budget now.
"Today, County Council and the residents of Delaware County call on Gov. Wolf to pass a budget immediately."
The county is owed approximately $40 million in human service funds from the state and another $5 million in money for the elderly. The all-Republican council made it clear that they see Gov. Wolf alone as the impediment to a deal.
"How can we keep our state parks open, our liquor stores open, and not fund services to our young victims of abuse and neglect?" White said. "It's time for the governor to reassess his priorities."
The council said that, even if a full budget cannot be passed, money for human services should be released. It is a move that has bipartisan support, they said.
The council is considering withholding the approximately $6.5 million per month it collects in taxes and fees for the state. That may be directed to keeping social services afloat, but the legality of such a move is unclear.
"There are valid policy concerns that the governor and the legislature can debate about," said councilman John McBlain, citing taxation and school funding.
But he faulted Gov. Wolf for holding social services "hostage" during those debates.
Democrats decried the press conference as political showmanship.
"It's a political stunt meant to make it look like local elected officials are leading when those at the state level are not," said Joseph Corrigan, campaign spokesman for Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D., Delaware).
"The only people not leading at the state level are the Republicans in the legislature," he said.
Corrigan specifically took aim at White, who led the press conference, saying White "has other political aspirations."
"It's just cynical," he said. "This is not about serving taxpayers' interests. This is about gaining another political notch in their belt against the governor and the Democratic Party."
Edward Coleman is CEO of the Community Action Agency of Delaware County. It operates three homeless shelters, job training programs and other initiatives and relies on the county for a portion of its funding.
To Coleman, the politics of the matter is irrelevant.
"It could have some serious impact on our ability to provide some essential services to the residents of Delaware County," he said of the funding cutoff.
"Our resources are rapidly dwindling."