PA House Passes Budget Bill
The Pa. House has passed a budget that keeps Gov. Tom Wolf’s planned expenditures to fight hunger, as well as a modest increase in basic education funding, but cuts spending on environmental protection, economic development and human services.
The $31.5 billion plan, which is a decrease from current spending levels, passed on a party-line vote, with four Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. (See votes.) It contains no tax increases, but would rely upon expanded gambling and liquor sales for new revenues. The plan includes maintenance of funding levels for the state’s major anti-hunger programs, as well as the governor’s proposed increases of $2 million for school breakfast and $100 million for basic education — both priorities for LAMPa. However, cuts to human services, including homeless assistance, medical assistance, mental health and opioid treatment, and already-slashed environmental protection programs are cause for serious concern. The Senate must now consider the bill. Read news coverage.
Learn more about the budget and how you can take action at Lutheran Day, May 22.
The governor’s $32.5 billion proposal, made in February, already contained cuts and cost-saving measures such as consolidation of several departments and the closing of the state’s oldest prison. Wolf also avoided broad-based tax increases and proposed paying for his plan with fees and tax expansions, such as a 6.5 percent severance tax on Marcellus Shale drillers, allowing companies to credit the money they pay in impact fees toward that tax. His plan also included a $25 per capita fee on municipalities that rely on State Police for their law enforcement, as well as closure of some sales tax exemptions. Wolf also called for an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour, from the current rate of $7.25.
By comparison, the House plan, according to the Pa. Budget and Policy Center:
- Proposes $50 million less for Pre-K education and Head Start than the governor’s budget, as well as eliminates the $8.5 million safe school initiative.
- Proposes $9 million less than the Governor’s budget for the Department of Environmental Protection, which is already funded more than 30 percent below the level it was in 2008. It proposes to cut funding in half for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Delaware River Basin Commission, and Chesapeake Bay River Basic Commission compared to 2016-2017.
- Proposes an additional $58 million reduction beyond the $11 million in cuts called for by the governor. It does not provide any funding for the promising manufacturing and work-force training initiatives proposed by Wolf.
- Keeps new funding proposed by the governor to reduce waiting lists for intellectual disability and autism services. Proposes an additional $11 million reduction in county assistance offices beyond what is proposed in the governor’s budget; $62 million less in child care services and assistance, as well as the elimination of the governor’s request to add $9 million for evidence-based home visits; $9 million less in mental health and behavioral health beyond the reductions proposed in the Wolf budget. It calls for reductions of $2.8 million in homeless assistance and $4 million for local health departments compared to the current year’s budget. And it seeks over $200 million in reductions in medical assistance.
- Cuts $12 million for the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, funds that would be used to provide Naloxone to police departments so that they can revive people who have overdosed on opioids.
- Proposes a reduction of $95 million, beyond that proposed by the governor, for state correctional institutions
- Provides $75 million in new tax breaks for businesses that contribute to private schools through the EITC and OSTC programs.
- Provides no minimum wage increase.
The House plan does not address the state’s projected budget deficit, leaving a gap of approximately $800 million. Pennsylvania’s fiscal year ends June 30.