Ten days are left until a budget is due in Pennsylvania and this year, not only does it look like a budget will be passed on time, it may even be passed early.
A $32.7 billion spending bill was overwhelmingly passed in the House today. It now heads to the Senate. The bill is a 2% increase over the current year’s spending plan and it’s one that both political sides seem to be on board with.
The budget bill approved by the House on Wednesday sees some wins and losses for Governor Wolf. In his proposed budget earlier this year, the governor called for a raise in the minimum wage and new severance tax on natural gas drilling; he got neither. But, he does get more than $100 million in new spending for K-12 public education and $20 million more for Pre-K programs.
The bill also includes $60 million to fund public school and community safety measures.
Senator Joe Scarnati, President Pro Tempore, says, “Local school districts making decisions on what they’d like to do for safety upgrades for their buildings.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman says it’s just phase one of school safety initiatives. With plans to hold public hearings through the summer to get feedback on a number of school safety bills. “$60 million is not a drop in the bucket, but at the same time, it’s just a beginning.”
The appropriations bill now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass; a much different story from previous budget years.
Representative Joseph Markosek of the House Appropriations Committee says, “That’s a good thing. It shows all of us, Democrats, Republicans, House, Senate… were able to work together to put together a very good budget.”
Lawmakers point to new revenues, rather than having to dig out of a $2.2 billion budget hole like last year. But, they also don’t deny this is an election year. Representative Joseph Markosek says, “To say that had nothing to do with it would be incorrect. But, politics always has something to do with this. Whether it’s an election year or not.”
And, that bill could be voted on in the Senate as early as Friday.
–Matt Heckel, JET 24 Action News