It’s good to be in charge.
After being in the minority for the last 12 years, House Democrats seized on the opportunity as the majority party to pass a $46.4 billion spending plan for 2024-25 – even higher than proposed by Gov. Josh Shapiro.
The plan passed on a straight party-line vote of 102-101 on a day that saw the full House complement of 203 reached with the swearing in of recently-elected representatives Michael Stender (R-Montour/Northumberland) and Heather Boyd (D-Delaware)
With $13 billion in reserves and a mandate from the state Supreme Court to better fund schools, Democrats extracted more funding for education, state police, school construction and home repairs in a bill that calls for a 13 percent increase in spending from 2023-24.
The plan foresees no increases in the state’s two main revenue streams – income or sales taxes – and most of the new money in it would go to education, health care and social services. Like Shapiro’s plan, it relies on roughly $2 billion in reserves to balance.
The budget bill now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate where it is unlikely to remain in its current form. State law calls for a finalized spending plan agreement by June 30 which is the end of Pennsylvania’s fiscal year.
House Democratic leaders felt good about their accomplishment.
“Today we took a step forward with a budget that puts people first. It makes additional investments in critical programs and services that House Democrats have long prioritized and includes Republican priorities – all in a fiscally responsible way. It’s a plan that further invests in every school district, including extra support for those with the most need and aging infrastructure. It even puts an additional deposit into our Rainy Day Fund.
“We look forward to continuing the negotiation process with the Senate and finalizing a budget that makes strong investments in education, working families, public safety, and communities – all priorities that we can afford.”
Republican leaders saw it in a different light.
“House Democrats today completely broke with their governor, Josh Shapiro, by gutting his budget and replacing it with a bloated spending plan that reflects their unilateral priorities,” House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said.
“While Gov. Shapiro’s budget was bad enough, Democrats today have increased spending and raised taxes, bloated state government, and rammed through a massive and unsustainable spending plan with only six hours for lawmakers and the public to read it,” Cutler added. “This is not only gross mismanagement and a lack of transparency by House Democrats, but it is the kind of sneak attack politics that the public abhors.”
House Republican Appropriations Chairman Seth Grove (R-York) noted the spending plan unilaterally pushed by House Democratic leadership is poor budgeting and fiscally irresponsible.
“A simple, kitchen-table idea is that you should not spend money you do not have. However, the budget created and forced through the House today by House Democratic leadership not only does that, but it ensures money the state has to save Pennsylvanians from a tax increase will be gone earlier than anyone expected,” Grove said.
“Despite these welcome additions to Governor Shapiro’s proposal, this is a fiscally responsible budget plan,” said Marc Stier, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Policy Center. “The state remains on pace to have a more than $13 billion budget surplus at the end of the current fiscal year, including an $8 billion operating surplus and over $5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund. The House budget for 2023-24 expects an ending balance of $5.6 billion before additions to the Rainy Day Fund, essentially the ending balance the governor proposed in March. The additional funding proposed by the Appropriations Committee is supported by higher revenue expectations for the current fiscal year ($663 million) and Fiscal year 2023-24 ($461 million) compared to the governor’s March projections. These higher revenue expectations are based on the IFO’s recent projections and are in keeping with both recent revenues and consensus estimates for growth in the Pennsylvania economy over the next year.”
updated to reflect new numbers provided by Pennsylvania Policy Center