Budget Update: Moving On

By Brent Sailhamer, Director of Government Affairs

The Wolf administration kicked off its second year last week by posting a blog that highlighted several of Governor Wolf’s first-year accomplishments. The only problem is that hardly any required legislative approval.

Just after the Christmas holiday, Wolf continued his strong stance with the legislature, exercising his line-item veto authority on a $30.2 billion budget and striking out what he deemed an “underfunded” education appropriation. At the same time, the Governor pledged emergency funding to keep schools open and running while the rest of the budget allowed state and local services to get back up to speed. While the move was supposed to motivate legislators to return to Harrisburg and act on increased education funding, conservative members of the House were more than happy with the outcome as is – requiring no tax increases and providing as-needed funding to school districts.

The Senate returns this week to take up budget-related code bills, presumably sending Governor Wolf a fiscal code and tax code for 2015-2016 by week’s end. But, as for the budget itself, the legislature is apparently content to move on down the road. Late last week, the House and Senate released their schedule for Appropriations Committee hearings, signaling the start of the 2016-2017 budget process. Hearings begin in late February, where each cabinet agency will have an opportunity to lay out a spending plan for the upcoming year and request funding from the legislature.

While there’s still work to do on this year’s budget, it’s beginning to look like the legislature is moving on.