A funding request by a local legislator to assist the Upper Perkiomen Valley Ambulance Association has been placed in legislative limbo. According to state Sen. Bob Mensch, the $1 million earmark he included in Pennsylvania's 2014-15 fiscal year budget has been put on hold by Gov. Tom Corbett. Mensch said the measure has not been vetoed, but that questions remain about whether or not it will be included in the budget.
On Sunday, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer implied that the measure had been included in the $29 billion budget. One day later, Mensch estimated a less than 50 percent chance that the money will eventually go through.
Money for the earmark has been "frozen for the foreseeable future," according to the senator, citing language in the Pennsylvania Fiscal Code. "I'm not holding out a lot of hope," Mensch said. "That's why I have suggested to ambulance association board members that they do alternative planning for funding."
The money to fund the request has been placed in budgetary reserve, according to Jay Pagni, Corbett's press secretary. He said Monday that a determination on whether or not to release the funds, based upon projected revenues and expenses, would be made at a later date. However, Pagni did not know when that determination would be made.
According to Mensch, the earmark would help the association deal with severe financial concerns. He said the organization faces a $1.5 million debt.
"Without this money, the prospects for the long-term health of the organization would diminish dramatically," said Mensch, a former president of the association. "I thought it could be a good solution."
Financial issues cropped up following its construction of a new headquarters at 2199 E. Buck Road in Pennsburg, he said.
"This request was an attempt to help save this organization," he said. "There were some incredibly bad decisions made by the entire board of directors from the time they purchased the property (for the new building)."
The request would help the ambulance association fulfill the government's responsibility to provide essential services, according to Mensch. "It's not like my request would have benefitted one person," he said. "It would have helped an entire community."
Lamar Weikel, the current president of the ambulance association, said the organization would allocate the money to its mortgage if the earmark ever comes to fruition. "It was fantastic that Sen. Mensch made the request," Weikel said. "We had no idea."
The emergency medical service group provides advanced life support services to between 20,000 and 25,000 citizens in East Greenville, Pennsburg and Red Hill boroughs, as well as Upper Hanover Township in Montgomery County and parts of Lower Milford in Lehigh County.
Mensch said he learned of Corbett's decision to earlier this month to delay implementation of the earmark. During a face-to-face meeting with the governor two weeks ago, the Mensch said he voiced his concerns.
"The governor made no commitments," the senator said. "He was adamant about holding the line on his line-item vetoes, and said this issue was up in the air. He is doing what he thinks he has to do to streamline the finances of government."