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Lawmakers pass state budget with no tax increase, Gov. Wolf expected to sign

Harrisburg, PA – PA lawmakers have passed a $40.8 billion state budget that does not raise personal or business taxes but still manages to have the largest public school funding increase in state history.

Democratic lawmaker tend to be supportive of the progress the budget makes towards things like education and childcare as parents return to the workforce.

The majority of the $7 billion Pennsylvania received in federal COVID-19 recovery aid is being saved and not used right away, which most Republicans support but more Democrats are not as happy about.

However, despite the minor disagreements, lawmakers have moved the budget forward in a bipartisan effort and relatively little drama, ahead of the July 1 fiscal year deadline. On Friday, the budget passed the House on a 140-61 vote, and the Senate approved it by a 43-7 vote.

Governor Tom Wolf says he plans to sign the budget this week.

Learn more and see the exact budget details at budget.pa.gov.

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Press release from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office:

Harrisburg, PA – With Pennsylvania on the comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tom Wolf announced his support for the state budget that invests in the future of our children with the largest public school funding increase in state history. This budget also takes major steps to stabilize child care to help working parents as they return to the workforce.

“Our economy has weathered the pandemic, and now is roaring forward. We are a commonwealth on the comeback,” said Gov. Wolf. “This budget will help our state move forward and rebuild a strong, equitable economy that works for Pennsylvanians. It provides the largest education funding increase in state history so our students can get the education and training they need for good jobs and to enjoy a successful life in Pennsylvania. And it isn’t any ordinary increase in funding – it is new funding specifically and equitably targeted at the most underfunded districts that disproportionately serve students of color, students in poverty, students with disabilities and English learners.

“The budget also helps stabilize child care so working parents can return to the workforce, provides for their families and grows the economy. We are addressing the housing crisis, so homeowners and renters will have a roof over their head and a safe place to live. This is a budget that invests in Pennsylvanians.”

The governor will sign the budget next week.

Historic $416 Million Increase in Public Education Funding
Over the past six years, Gov. Wolf has reversed historic cuts to public education and increased annual funding by $1.4 billion. This budget builds on that success with an additional $416 million, the largest single-year education funding increase in state history, raising the increase in annual education funding during Gov. Wolf’s term to more than $1.8 billion.

The $416 million education funding increase includes:

  • $200 million increase to the fair funding formula, for a total of nearly $900 million, so all school districts have the resources to provide a high-quality education that prepares students for success. Gov. Wolf signed the fair funding formula into law in 2016.
  • $100 million for Level Up, a new initiative providing more equitable funding to the 100 most underfunded districts and the students they serve.
  • $20 million for Ready to Learn.
  • $50 million increase for special education.
  • $30 million increase for early education, including $25 million to expand Pre-K Counts and $5 million to expand Head Start.
  • $11 million for preschool Early Intervention.
  • Nearly $5 million for community colleges.

Additionally, the budget invests $350 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds for schools to address learning loss and provide summer enrichment and after school programs to help students with academic, social, emotional and mental health needs.

This budget also provides $50 million in ARP funding for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to support the redesign and growth of the system to make a college education more affordable and accessible for students. The investment is part of a commitment totaling $200 million over four years for PASSHE.

“This budget makes a historic investment in education so our students get the knowledge and skills they deserve,” said Gov. Wolf. “Pennsylvania provides almost $2 billion more a year for education than when I took office. Students now have access to better technology, resources and opportunities and we are providing more help to distressed school districts.

“There is much to be proud of in this budget, but I am disappointed that we could not find agreement with Republicans to direct all school funding through the bipartisan fair funding formula to help growing rural, suburban and urban school districts. The Level Up initiative is a down payment in this fight which provides critical annual funding increases for the districts that need it most – but it is far from enough. This is a bold first step to ensure equitable school funding, and we are going to fight to make sure that every student has the resources they need to succeed regardless of their zip code.

“In addition, I won’t rest until we fix the broken charter school law to save nearly $400 million a year by making charter school companies focus on education rather than maximizing profits at taxpayers’ expense. This may have been a missed opportunity, but it’s not the only opportunity, and we will continue to fight to ensure that every dollar spent on education goes to students rather than corporate profits.”

Even with the new investments, Pennsylvania’s school funding remains unfair to many rural, suburban and urban school districts. The state’s fair funding formula only applies to new investments since 2016, meaning about 85% of basic education funding is still distributed using student enrollment from 1992, without considering shifts in student population or school districts’ costs.

The governor also continues to believe the state must protect taxpayers from being overcharged by charter schools. The governor’s plan would fix the broken charter school law to base spending on costs, saving school districts $400 million a year and making charter school companies focus on education quality and ensure transparency in how they spend taxpayer dollars.

Helping Working Parents Return to Work
This budget continues the governor’s efforts to make high-quality child care available to parents, with $728.9 million in ARP funding to help stabilize the child care industry as it recovers from the pandemic. This investment will help the industry and employees to safely open their doors so parents can return to the workforce with the confidence their children are receiving high-quality care.

“Even before the pandemic, many parents were dealing with the frustration and stress of struggling to find good child care for their children, and the pandemic made it worse,” said Gov. Wolf. “This investment will allow parents to return to work with the comfort of knowing their young children are in safe and nurturing child care. This crucial support will help families and employers.”

Keeping Pennsylvanians Safe
This budget increases funding to help Pennsylvanians struggling with rent and mortgage payments to remain in their homes and invests in affordable housing and safety. Among other investments, the budget provides the following:

  • $450 million in ARP funding for rental assistance, building on the dollars appropriated in Act 1 of 2021.
  • $350 million in ARP funding for homeowner mortgage assistance.
  • $36 million in ARP funding to help pay water bills.
  • $282 million in ARP funding to help nursing homes and long-term care facilities to recover from the pandemic and improve patient safety.
  • $30 million in new state dollars for violence intervention and prevention by local communities and local organizations.

 

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Press release from the House of Representatives GOP Caucus:

Harrisburg, PA – The FY 2021-2022 state budget passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a vote of 140 to 61.

“This budget delivers on promises we made to Pennsylvanians when every member of our caucus was re-elected in 2020,” Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “We’ve denied the governor’s tax increases, we’ve made responsible education funding a top priority, we are making crucial deposits in the Rainy Day Fund to handle future challenges, and rebuilding trust in elections by establishing the state’s Bureau of Election audits. This is a budget Pennsylvanians can be proud of knowing their hard-earned dollars are moving the state out of a pandemic and into a brighter future.”

The budget keeps year-over-year spending growth in line to reflect a continuing pandemic-related economic recovery while also prudently saving money to prepare for future economic uncertainty.

“By learning from the past and wisely managing a large influx of one-time federal funding in Pennsylvania to meet current needs and prepare for the future, we can be certain that regardless of what comes our way we will not have to go back to taxpayers for more of their hard-earned money,” said Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin). “I am proud the House Republican Caucus continued to lead in this budget with providing a significant investment in our students, bolstering nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and ensuring state resources are directed to our most vulnerable.”

Importantly, the FY 2021-2022 state budget increases the state’s investment in education, provides significant funding to Pennsylvania’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and ensures transportation infrastructure projects can continue.“

This budget represents a fiscally responsible path forward for Pennsylvania,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York). “We are meeting the needs of Pennsylvania families, prioritizing the education of every child, protecting our most vulnerable citizens, and investing in infrastructure and jobs. It meets these goals while placing Pennsylvania on a strong financial footing, placing historic savings in our Rainy Day Fund.”

More information about the FY 2021-2022 state budget can be found at http://www.pahousegop.com/2122PAbudget.