Both the state House and Senate have approved a $34 billion budget, which includes record high funding for education with no new taxes.
The state House passed H.B. 790 by a 140-62 vote Tuesday, then the Senate voted 42-8 to approve its similar bill. It now awaits Governor Tom Wolf’s signature as the final step in its legislative journey.
The budget, if signed before Monday, is a 1.8% increase from the current fiscal year, in line with inflation. It also adds $250 million to the state Rainy Day Fund, a pseudo savings account for the state to avoid future tax increases and help in case of future economic downturn.
State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-18) praised the budget in a weekly letter, crediting a growing national economy and higher-than-expected revenues.
“My overriding goal with this budget was to make sure it responds to the needs of our communities, from increasing the amount of money our local schools will receive to helping more people get off the waiting list for home- and community-based services,” DiGirolamo said. “We’ve been able to make smart financial decisions that have allowed us to prioritize funding for critical programs that benefit our residents.”
But some are not satisfied with the budget and believe it does not go far enough. First, it does not make any allocations for an increased minimum wage. Additionally, it cuts the General Assistance program, which helps vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
State Rep. Perry Warren (D-31) voted against the budget overall along with slightly more than half of other Democrats in the state House. Warren “voted for some aspects of the budget enthusiastically, voted for others tepidly, and voted against others,” he said in a written email to WBCB.
“The Legislature completed an on time budget,” Warren started. “I am deeply disappointed that the budget does not include an increase in the minimum wage from its current $7.25. In all, the negotiated budget provides for the necessary operations of the Commonwealth and increases education spending but misses some opportunities to improve the lives of working families and protect our environment.”
Highlights from the budget include:
- $90 million increase in funding for individuals with disabilities
- $432 million increase in public K-12 education
- $10 million increase to career and technology education
- $19.5 million for agriculture, an increase of more than 12%