Pa. lawmakers, advocates react to state budget passage
*This breaking story will be updated to include additional information.
The state House voted 117-86 to pass a proposed $45.5 billion state budget late Wednesday, sending the spending plan to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk for a signature.
In a statement following Wednesday’s vote, Shapiro said he was proud of the final budget, calling it a “statement of our priorities.”
“Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with a full-time, divided legislature – meaning nothing gets done unless it can make it through our Republican-led Senate and our Democratic-led House. I’m proud that this budget – one that makes historic investments in public education, public safety, workforce development, agriculture, and economic development – passed both the House and Senate, and I look forward to signing it.”
Here’s how politicians and advocates reacted to the budget’s passage:
House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster:
“Democrats approving this budget is nothing more than an escape hatch for our friends on the other side of the aisle who wish to avoid a protracted impasse over a politically inconvenient issue that divides their own party. Today’s vote ultimately will leave students and families, who want nothing more than the opportunity for a better education and a better future, out in the cold merely for political convenience.
There are positive things one can point to in this spending plan. It increases funding for career and technical education, workforce development programs, public safety, and property tax relief while maintaining our commitment to supporting public education, the PA State System of Higher Education, and increasing funding for Educational Improvement and Opportunity Scholarship tax credit programs. It increases support for our Rainy Day Fund, spends less than what the governor originally proposed, and is considerably more reasonable than the unilateral budget passed out of this House about a month ago by the Democrats on a straight party-line vote.
“On the other hand, this budget has a lot of concerning elements. For instance, it does little to address our structural deficit and runaway and unaccountable welfare programs, which if not addressed, will threaten the long-term ability of our state to genuinely prosper.”
House Republican Appropriations Chairman Seth Grove, R-York:
This legislative session started with a lie from Representative Mark Rozzi promising to serve as a non-partisan Speaker; it now continues with a lie from Governor Shapiro. Governor Shapiro should sign HB 611 with the inclusion of Lifeline Scholarships, as he promised to do last week. Failure to do so will result in a complete lack of trust between House and Senate Republicans and the House Democrats and the Governor.
“If the Governor does line-item veto Lifeline Scholarships, he should follow through and line-item veto all budget line items that do not already have enabling legislation.
“House Democrats may pat themselves on the back for stopping $100 million in funding for children stuck in failing school districts. House Democrats may laud themselves for passing a budget that spends 6% over the prior year’s budget, but make no mistake, this is not a complete 2023-24 budget. Completing this task with such deceptive tactics in State Government will be extremely difficult. Make no mistake, House Republicans will continue fighting for fiscal sanity and children trapped in failing schools.”
State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia:
“I am glad that we were able to pass a budget that puts an emphasis on supporting the state’s young people. In my role as majority chair of the Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee, I fought for investments in our children and youth. It’s my desire to see young people and families thrive in Pennsylvania.
“Not only did we increase funding for public schools in general and increase funding for the Philadelphia School District by 7.6%, we also were able to expand access to and the affordability of childcare by increasing the state’s childcare tax credit. We also continued investments in maternal and child health, free school breakfast programs, and early intervention services.
“The budget is not perfect, they never are, but it does make significant investments in the state’s most important resource: people. Budgets are statements of values and House Democrats showed that we value education and working people and that we want to build a state that is safe, with good jobs and boundless opportunity.”
State Rep. Joe Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia:
“Pennsylvania has passed a budget that prioritizes education, expands the Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program, and paves the way for a brighter future. The passage of this budget signifies a significant step forward, but let us be clear, this budget is just the beginning. With Commonwealth Court’s decision, it is absolutely clear that we are failing our students. It’s up to us to build on this foundation and deliver a high-quality public education. We must fight for equitable funding that ensures we have the resources necessary to provide a first-class education to every student.
“But let us not forget that there is more work to be done beyond education. That includes justice for survivors of sexual abuse, a minimum wage increase, commonsense gun measures, and the Fairness Act to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination. We must invest in our crumbling infrastructure, improve access to affordable health care, and champion renewable energy to protect our environment and generations to come. We need to restore the early childhood education and childcare funding that we had originally passed in the budget to support working families. While we celebrate this budget and the victory for education funding, let us remember that there is much more work to do to bring true equity and deliver on our promise of a high-quality education for every student.”
State Rep. Arvind Venkat, D-Allegheny:
“The increase in state funding is a down payment so that the state may begin to meet its obligations on public education without increasing property taxes, which in turn reduces the burden on taxpayers in McCandless, Franklin Park, Ohio Township, Kilbuck, Emsworth, Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, and western Hampton Township.”
Pennsylvania State Education Association President Rich Askey:
“We’re grateful that lawmakers have approved a state budget that makes much-needed investments in our public schools. It is important to recognize that the funding increases in this budget are only a down payment on a long-term fix to our unconstitutional public school funding system. We need to do everything we can to ensure that our public school students have the resources they need to succeed.
“Last week, the education community made it clear that we oppose the tuition voucher scheme passed by the state Senate. Today, Gov. Shapiro announced that he will use his line-item veto power to eliminate the $100 million tuition voucher appropriation. That removes our concerns with the budget bill.
Going forward, we need to focus on fixing Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional public school funding system rather than cooking up new tuition voucher schemes that waste taxpayers’ money and have failed to improve student outcomes in other states.”
Originally published at www.penncapital-star.com,by Cassie Miller