The $42.8 billion spending plan includes increases in education funding, environmental programs, and a new “whole home repairs program.”
More than a week after the deadline, Pennsylvania lawmakers finally passed a budget bill Friday.
Big winners were public schools, environmental programs, and long-term care facilities, but the budget also will leave some $5 billion in the state’s rainy day fund, create a multibillion-dollar cushion for next year, and cut the tax on corporate net income.
The Senate approved the bill 47-3 after the House passed it by a similar margin the prior evening. A spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said he will sign it.
“This budget represents a significant act of sober and realistic governance at a time of unprecedented divisiveness and political acrimony in Harrisburg,” Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) said. “I am grateful that, at the end of a process that was unnecessarily late and acrimonious, leaders prevailed in completing the process with an agreement that does not fulfill everyone’s wish list, but makes progress in areas where Pennsylvanians have demanded it.”
The $42.8 billion spending plan includes hundreds of millions to clean streams and renovate or repair parks and forest land, and new money for home repairs, flood control, sewer and water infrastructure, child care, additional state troopers, anti-gun violence efforts and mental health support.
K-12 education spending increased by more than a half-billion dollars, and Pennsylvania’s 100 poorest districts are splitting an additional $225 million. There are also larger subsidies for early childhood education, special education, and the state-owned Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
The Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, a state-run effort popular with Republicans that gives businesses tax breaks in return for donating to private school tuition, will rise by 45% to more than $400 million.
As part of the deal, Wolf has agreed to pull charter school regulations that had been approved in March.
With strong majorities in both chambers, Republicans got a lot of what they wanted, including a 1% decrease in the corporate net income tax and a program to help counties run elections while prohibiting the type of outside financial support that was controversial during the 2020 election.
The state fund will be used to help counties register voters, prepare and administer elections, and audit the results.
The budget includes more money for a property tax and rent rebate program for seniors and to help lower-income people afford the cost of heating.
A new $125 million “whole home repairs program” was started, offering grants of up to $50,000 for homeowners with household incomes at or below 80% of local median income. Some landlords will also qualify for forgivable loans. The money can be used to make homes habitable, make utilities more efficient, or improve access for those with disabilities.
“As we celebrate these hard-earned victories, let’s not forget that there was – and is – much more we need to do to address the commonwealth’s many urgent challenges,” Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery) said. “While this budget is a great step forward, we can’t forget that many of these investments were needed to reverse years of gutting critical programs across the board, and many other programs did not receive the investments for which Governor Wolf and Democrats fought so hard during this protracted negotiation. There is a lot more work to be done, and by all indications, now is the time to do it.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.