HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania State budget is due one week from June 23, and there is currently a record $10 billion surplus.
With such a large amount of money, there was hope that a deal would be completed by Friday, June 24. However, the House and Senate cancelled their sessions for June 23 and 24 without a budget deal in place.
“We’re not where we need to be but we’re making progress and god willing, we’ll get there,” said Representative Matt Bradford (D), Appropriations Chairman.
One of the biggest hurdles for the budget deal has been public school funding; Republicans are willing to spend a little more, Governor Wolf wants a lot more.
“Yes, the governor wants to make sure we make an historic investment in education. We have a historic surplus. We should not be hoarding taxpayer dollars at the expense of students and property tax payers,” Bradford added.
Wolf’s budget secretary, Gregory Thall, hopes public schools get enough funding to give property tax payers a break. “Hopefully we put enough in that the school directors decide to lower property taxes. That would be a huge win for everyone in this building, both Democratic and Republican. Thus far the numbers that have been offered by the Republican side do not come close to that,” Thall said.
School districts in Pennsylvania do not have a history of lowering property taxes, Thall concedes.
“We don’t have a lot of history of that but we also don’t have a lot of history of properly funding our schools,” Thall said.
Conservative groups like the Commonwealth Foundation say public schools are sitting on reserves of $5 billion despite decreased enrollment.
“It’s based on a myth that we are underfunding schools. That’s not true,” said Nate Benefield of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation, “When we ask the question, ‘Hey are we underfunding public schools?’ people say yes. When we say we’re spending $20,000 per kid on public schools they say, ‘Hey wait a minute that’s a lot of money we’re throwing at public schools.'”
With the budget deal still in the air, lots of money is about to be allocated, including Republican priorities like reducing the Corporate Net Income Tax and an additional $2 billion to the rainy day fund, which will push it to $5 billion.
“When he [Wolf] came in to office we had $200,000 in the rainy day fund,” Bradford said.
Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Thall said, “Yes,” when asked if we would have a budget deal on time.