Budget negotiations between the Wolf administration and Republican lawmakers are expected to continue into the holiday weekend. They revolve around a substantial increase in aid for public schools and election funding.
Pennsylvania didn’t make the deadline for budget negotiations but don’t worry: the state won’t be closed for business, and the turnpike will still be open ahead of the holiday weekend.
The state is simply heading into the fiscal year without a budget.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and top Republican lawmakers worked through Thursday’s deadline but still couldn’t hammer out a roughly $42 billion spending plan they could agree on.
Efforts to settle final details in the sprawling budget package came with 11th-hour wrangling over a number of issues, including pressure by Republicans for Wolf to agree to election-related legislation that has roots in former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims Democrats stole the 2020 election.
The state’s bank account is flush with billions in extra cash — tax receipts boosted by inflation and an economy juiced with federal pandemic subsidies — but the extra money in a state accustomed to deficits hasn’t necessarily solved problems.
Without a new budget signed into law by Friday, the state will lose the authority to make some payments, although a stalemate must typically last several weeks before any effect on services is felt.
Both the House and Senate scheduled weekend voting sessions in an effort to finish a budget package before Independence Day.
Top lawmakers have publicly professed confidence in the past couple days that closed-door negotiations were on the right track.
“Everybody is working hard, both sides of the aisle, the governor’s office, everybody’s doing the best they can to get this over the hump and move on,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York. “But I think we’ll have a good product when we’re done.”
What’s the Holdup?
Negotiations in closed-door talks revolve around a substantial amount of new aid for public schools — albeit under half the amount Wolf sought in his February budget proposal — and various concessions by the Democratic governor to Republican lawmakers who control the Legislature.
New aid for public schools is expected to land at around $850 million, or slightly higher, lawmakers say. That is well short of the almost $1.8 billion more that Wolf had initially requested for instruction, school operations, and special education.
New aid to schools also will include substantial sums for school security upgrades and school counselors or psychiatrists.
Despite billions in extra cash, budget makers have said they are not contemplating any sort of broad-based tax cut for Pennsylvanians on sales or income.
Rather, Wolf and Republican lawmakers have focused on cutting Pennsylvania’s 9.99% corporate income tax rate, one of the nation’s highest. Along with that, Wolf has sought changes to ensure more multistate corporations pay the tax.
In exchange for boosting aid to schools, Republican lawmakers sought concessions on various policy goals that Wolf had unilaterally pursued over Republican objections.
Those include Wolf’s plan to toll up to nine interstate bridges — which was blocked in a Thursday ruling by Commonwealth Court — and subject charter schools to stronger ethics, accounting, and admissions standards.
Republicans have also pressed for an agreement on legislation to restrict third-party funding for county election offices and equipment — a throwback to GOP complaints that money from the nonprofit Center for Technology and Civic Life was heavily tilted to left-leaning counties to help Democrat Joe Biden win 2020’s presidential election.
Another fight involves state aid for the University of Pittsburgh.
Abortion rights opponents in the House have held up the state’s annual aid to Pitt, insisting the university first end its federally funded fetal tissue research.
The university historically has received aid every year from the state, and Wolf has proposed $162.5 million for it, a 5% increase.
The university says fetal tissue research is critical to efforts to cure serious diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and Parkinson’s, and to helping to deliver healthy babies successfully.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
US Sen. Bob Casey introduced legislation to combat a form of price gouging known as “shrinkflation.” This comes after months of raising the alarm on...
By MARC LEVY Associated Press HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Law enforcement agencies, civil defense officials and election administrators have begun...
Crisis pregnancy centers in Pennsylvania are posing as abortion care clinics. After being duped into an appointment at one, Jane* tells us what...
From family-owned community staples like Urbaniak Brothers in Erie, to Central Pa. favorite Stauffers of Kissel Hill, to chains like Giant Eagle and...
According to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board, the city of Pittsburgh is to blame for the collapse of the Forbes Avenue bridge...