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HARRISBURG — With three weeks to go before the June 30 deadline to pass a new spending plan, Pennsylvania lawmakers question how much of the state’s billions of surpluses to invest in public services. Opinions seem divided, but this fundamental disagreement must be resolved in order for the budget to move forward.
The Democratic-led state House of Representatives this week passed an expanded version of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget that would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the state’s education system. It faced immediate opposition from the Republicans who control the state Senate.
This disconnect over spending isn’t the only potential hurdle as budget talks heat up.
It’s too early to tell whether lawmakers will complete the deal by June 30, but some say the overdue statutory deadline won’t be a big problem in the short term.
States are legally obligated to continue paying salaries and benefits to their employees in times of budget frustrations, and without an agreement the government can continue to operate and delay payments. Schools and other state-funded social services will start feeling the pinch in August or September.
Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R., Indiana) downplayed the April deadline, saying his priority is to design “responsible products.”
Comparison of school spending and emergency savings
Earlier this year, Democrat Shapiro proposed a $44.4 billion budget. Includes $1 billion in new education spending. New Democrats in the state House of Representatives this week pushed a bill that would add $900 million to Mr. Shapiro’s proposal, mostly on education spending, including $225 million for the state’s 100 poorest districts. ).
They argue that such investments are necessary. Commonwealth Court Judgment It found Pennsylvania’s school funding system to be unconstitutional and unfair.
A bill introduced by House Democrats would transfer $450 million in state tax revenue to two new states. limited account So-called “Special Funds”: $250 million to build school buildings, $200 million to a year-old state program to fund home improvement projects.
Democrats justified the spending increase by noting that fiscal spending has fallen slightly this year. Tax revenue higher than expected Similarly, the state has about $12 billion stashed in cash reserves and emergency funds.
“House Democrats show what we get. We show what we believe. We show what we think matters. What should we invest in?” It shows how they think they are,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jordan Harris (D., Philadelphia) said during a debate on the floor.
The plan passed the narrowly held state House of Representatives by a 102-101 partisan majority and is now in the Republican-controlled state Senate.
State Senate Republican Press Secretary Kate Fresner said in a statement that the Democratic proposal “causes significant concern.”
“The Senate Republican Caucus is committed to developing responsible spending plans that will help make Pennsylvania stronger now and in the future,” she added.
Both Mr. Shapiro’s and House Democrats’ plans continue many pandemic-era social programs without generating new revenue. Republicans in both houses argued that the plan would rapidly deplete the state’s cash reserves as the federation faces an uncertain economic future.
“At the federal level, it’s been said for some time that a recession is on the horizon,” state Minority House Leader Brian Cutler (R-Lancaster) said during a House debate this week. “Someday they’ll be right, and if we spend all our money before the recession hits, we’re going to have tough debates and tough decisions to make.”
Republicans also sought to exaggerate the rift between House Democrats and the governor, saying in floor remarks and statements that Democrats had turned against Mr. Shapiro by passing their own plan.
After the plan passed, Shapiro’s office released a statement saying, “The new House Democratic Majority is taking this important step forward and adding common priorities as we work toward passing a common sense budget. I commend you for that,” he said.
Several sources told Spotlight PA that the governor also attended a closed-door meeting with Democrats in the state House of Representatives prior to the vote, giving them “encouragement.”he congratulated the caucus on its progress Agenda for the past few weekshighlights bills that implement non-discriminatory protection for LGBTQ people and strengthen state gun control.
Persistent debate looms in college
A potential early stumbling block is the fate of $606 million in aid. 4 state universities — spending that delayed negotiations last year. This money has historically subsidized tuition fees for in-state students at Lincoln University, Penn State University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh.
In a recent press release, the Pennsylvania Liberals, a conservative group of state representatives modeled after the Congressional Liberties, said they were withholding some of the funds slated for Pennsylvania for political reasons. threatened.
Members highlighted passages from the Pennsylvania State Health Center. website The magazine says the children’s hospital “provides anti-pubertal drugs, treats people with sexual development differences, and treats patients under the age of 10.”
It is unclear whether the Freedom Caucus will have enough votes to maintain Pennsylvania’s budget allocation.
Under the state constitution, a two-thirds vote, rather than a simple majority, is required for funding private or state-affiliated institutions such as Penn State University. That means that as little as 68 nos can block the fundraising.
This relatively low hurdle means that so-called “non-priority” spending is often a political bargaining chip during budget negotiations for corporate dissidents.
At least 16 members are listed on the Freedom Caucus website, but it also claims that “since some members are anonymous, overall representatives may not be shown.”
A few conservative Republicans, many of whom have since joined the Freedom Caucus, threatened: vote against funding Due to the health system’s COVID-19 vaccine policy, pen medicine will be covered in 2021, primarily in veterinary schools.
Republican Opposition to Mandatory Vaccines Also Affects Pennsylvania State University Decision Strongly recommend rather than require vaccines.And last year’s budget was partially delayed About Fetal Tissue Research at the University of Pittsburgh.
In a statement, the Freedom Caucus claimed that the Pennsylvania Department of Health prescribed anti-pubertal drugs to children under the age of 10, which the group said was misleading.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health said in an emailed statement that these drugs are only prescribed to treat precocious puberty in children under the age of 10, not gender dysphoria.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Health adheres to international guidelines that it does not support irreversible changes in children in relation to gender dysphoria care, and has no plans to change this position,” the statement added.
The Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania State Department of Health are separate organizations. The former is the state university system and the latter is the Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine and associated non-profit hospital chain.
Not all Republicans in the state House of Representatives agree with the Freedom Caucus initiative. Rep. Tom Mehaphy (R-Dauphine), whose district includes two Pennsylvania State Health Hospitals, including Children’s Hospital, doesn’t agree with all of the system’s decisions, but says the relationship between schools and hospitals is important. Said he was thinking. I was nervous.
“Pitt, Penn State, who’s next?” Ms. Mehaffey told Pennsylvania State Spotlight. “It’s a witch hunt”
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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/06/pa-education-spending-legislature-budget-josh-shapiro/ Disputes Emerge as Pennsylvania Budget Deadline Approaches Spotlight PA