Chester County officials announced Thursday they will immediately stop payments to the state until legislators pass a budget, following the lead of Bucks County. Other counties have threatened similar actions.
The county has been using its reserves to pay for human services. But as of Jan. 1, there will be no more funding for human-services providers, the county commissioners said.
"Even for Chester County, we are at the breaking point," Commissioner Michelle Kichline said.
The county's solicitor will investigate legal actions the county can take against the Commonwealth for failing to provide funding, they said. The solicitor also will look into the legality of using funds the county withholds to pay for services deemed essential.
The commissioners felt compelled to apply pressure to legislators,, said Terence Farrell, chair of the commissioners.
He said he told several state legislators of Chester County's plans to withhold funds to try to force a budget deal. Their response: Good.
The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania also is considering suing the Commonwealth so counties can collect state and federal funds for services deemed essential. The group said about a dozen counties have had to take out additional credit while they wait for a budget.
The Chester County commissioners noted that they passed their own budget on time Thursday.
Chester County sends an average of $4 million per month to the state from money it collects through its row offices.
More than 40 percent of the county's budget comes from state and federal grants. In the five months the state has been without a budget, the county has failed to receive about $30 million in funding, the commissioners said.
This week, Gov. Wolf continued to say he and others are working hard to reach an agreement, but it is not known when that will happen.
"We're all at the point now where this is outrageous," Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said.
Bucks County stopped payments to the state last Tuesday. Bucks officials have vowed to withhold the money until the General Assembly passes a budget.
"We know other counties already have run out of funds," Robert G. Loughery, chairman of the Bucks County Commissioners, said in a statement announcing the move. "Bucks County will take the lead with this action, and we strongly encourage other counties to follow suit."
Delaware County officials are considering withholding state funds, they said last Wednesday. The county sends $6.5 million in taxes and fees to the state, officials said. It has not received the $40 million in state funds it was supposed to get to keep human services programs running.