Budget Slog Moves into 2016

Just before the holiday break, the Pennsylvania House melted down over a budget fight as southeastern Republicans joined Democrats in an effort to pass a $30.8 billion budget, ensuring the need for a tax increase.  After heavy lobbying from ABC and other members of the business community, conservative House members revolted, blocking the vote and culminating in an abrupt adjournment that sent members home for the holidays.

The move left the Senate scrambling, as they reconvened just days before Christmas to push through a slimmed-down budget, totaling $30.2 billion, and sending it to the Governor.  The Christmas weekend came and went without any indication from the Governor as to intentions for the bill.  Then, last week, the Governor held a scathing press conference where he ripped into lawmakers for leaving town and advancing a budget that proposed less education funding than he had demanded.

During the press conference, the Governor also detailed his plan to line-item veto the budget, maintaining a large portion of the spending plan, but striking out the education spending amount that the legislature had approved.  In total, Governor Wolf approved $23 billion worth of the budget and announced his commitment to release 6 months’ worth of emergency funding to schools, who had signaled that they would begin closure procedures after the holiday due to financial distress. 

The budget bill, which Governor Wolf labeled “an exercise in stupidity,” allows funding for social organizations and vital local services, but still requires an accompanying Fiscal Code bill and Tax Code bill, as well as Education Code bill, which details the disbursement of education funding.  While some progress was made on the policy front, the move is viewed by many as a major setback for any negotiations between the legislature and administration, who have been at odds for months.  The legislature is expected to return this week to continue consideration of budget related items.