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ADAMS COUNTY ET AL. v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (08/11/82)

decided: August 11, 1982.

ADAMS COUNTY ET AL., PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE ET AL., RESPONDENTS



Original jurisdiction in the case of Adams County et al. v. Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Honorable Helen B. O'Bannon, Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare.

COUNSEL

Theodore A. Adler, with him Ronald G. Lench and David W. Reager, Widoff, Reager, Selkowitz and Adler, for petitioners.

Robert B. Hoffman, Deputy Attorney General, with him Allen C. Warshaw, Deputy Attorney General, Mary Frances Grabowski, Assistant Counsel, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondents.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, Blatt, MacPhail and Palladino. President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, Blatt, Williams, Jr., Craig, MacPhail and Doyle. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case. Concurring Opinion by Judge Doyle. Dissenting Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Judge Rogers joins in this dissent.

Author: Blatt

[ 68 Pa. Commw. Page 251]

Pennsylvania's sixty-seven counties have brought this action, addressed to our original jurisdiction,*fn1 against the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) and its Secretary, Helen B. O'Bannon (collectively, respondents) requesting that the respondents be enjoined from reducing Commonwealth reimbursements to the petitioners for the fiscal year 1980 for child welfare services. The petitioners also challenge the constitutionality of certain "non-fiscal" provisions of the General Appropriations Act of 1980, Act of June 18, 1980, P.L. 1391 (Act 17-A). The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment which are presently before us for disposition.

The controversy here is centered upon the reimbursement requirement set forth in Section 704.1 of the Public Welfare Code (Code), Act of June 13, 1967, P.L. 31, as amended, added by Section 2 of the Act of July 9, 1976, P.L. 846, 62 P.S. § 704.1, (Act 148), which provides in pertinent part that:

The department shall reimburse county institution districts or their successors for expenditures incurred by them in the performance of their obligation pursuant to this act and the act of December 6, 1972 (P.L. 1464, No. 333), known as the "Juvenile Act," in the following percentages: . . . . (Footnote omitted.)

The petitioners argue that this reimbursement requirement created no monetary ceiling for the fiscal year in question, 1980, and that the DPW was consequently

[ 68 Pa. Commw. Page 252]

    required to reimburse the counties for all expenditures incurred pursuant to the individual county plans which had been submitted and approved by the DPW for that calendar year. It is admitted that the counties did receive full reimbursements through June 30, 1980, which ended the Commonwealth's 1979 fiscal year, but the appropriation of $88,245,000 for the fiscal year 1980, beginning July 1, 1980, was insufficient to meet the expenditures of $114,000,000 projected for it by the county plans, and that Secretary O'Bannon notified the counties on July 11, 1980 that state funding for the remainder of the 1980 calendar year would be adjusted on a pro rata basis. It is also admitted that state reimbursements for the fiscal year 1980 were ultimately reduced by 34% of projected county plan requirements.*fn2

The petitioners instituted the instant action on September 10, 1980, and their application for preliminary injunction requesting that the respondents be enjoined from implementing any funding reductions was denied by Judge MacPhail of this Court on October 30, 1980. No appeal was taken from that order, and a transcript of the hearing conducted on the application for preliminary injunction has been made a part of the record for purposes of considering the motions for summary judgment presently before us. In considering these motions we are mindful that summary judgment may be entered only where no issue of material fact exists and where the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Washington v. Cuyler, 48 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 409, 409 A.2d 974 (1980).

To the petitioners' argument that Act 148 and the DPW's regulations set forth no limit for reimbursements

[ 68 Pa. Commw. Page 253]

    to counties for the costs that they incur in providing child welfare services and that the DPW therefore erred in not tendering such full reimbursement, the DPW replies that such payments were limited by language in Act 17-A and Section 5-10K-27 of the DPW's regulations, 7 Pa. B. 4053 (1977), which prohibited the expenditure of funds for child welfare services exceeding those which were appropriated and that, under the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pa. Const. art. ...


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