Seeking to break the Pennsylvania budget impasse for fiscal year 2015-2016, which began July 1 of last year, (now a full 265 days behind schedule), the Republican-dominated General Assembly this week sent Governor Tom Wolf a supplemental General Fund appropriation bill. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 31-18, followed by the State House of Representatives, by a vote of 128-63.
House Bill 1801 provides total spending for the current fiscal year to $30.031 billion, an $872.6 million (3 percent) increase over the earlier proposed 2014-2015 budget. The supplemental appropriation includes $6.05 billion in restorations to the line items that Governor Wolf previously vetoed in December. Finally, education funding under this bill would increase by more than $200 million compared with fiscal year 2014-2015 and $50 million from Act 10A.
In the House, lawmakers also gave final approval to funding for Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities—Penn State, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Lincoln University. These bills, which all received the necessary two-thirds vote, will now move forward to the governor’s office.
Lawmakers also approved the Fiscal Code House Bill 1327, which provides for fiscal year 2015-2016 budget implementation. The legislation includes language necessary to allow a business that participates in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs during fiscal year 2015-2016 to use the credit in either the tax year in which the application or the contribution is made.
Governor Wolf has indicated that he will veto the budget proposal when it arrives on his desk.
To say that the 2015-2016 budget process is an embarrassment is likely an understatement. The period of time that the Commonwealth has operated without a budget has far surpassed all earlier records and clearly demonstrates leadership in crisis. While there can be no budget agreement without some movement by both sides, it is irresponsible to simply maintain ideological positions that lead to suffering and harm to many within the State.
We will keep you posted but do not expect any quick resolution to this struggle.