State Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), the House Republican Appropriations Chairman, said on Thursday that he does not expect to see any movement on the Commonwealth’s budget impasse until October at the earliest.
Grove held a media briefing in Harrisburg covering funding for the state-related universities and an update on the budget impasse.
“Currently, we do not have any clarity on when this will end, how this will end, or the long term impacts of the decisions that have been made,” said Grove. “The majority party has excluded and ignored our good faith efforts to keep a tab on budget issues.
“You can basically assume you’re not going to see any budget movement until October, at the earliest,” he said. “This is again pre-planned. This is the second time this session House Democrats have shut this body down.”
Grove referred to the resignation of Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Allegheny) from her 21st District House seat on Wednesday to focus on her run for Allegheny County Executive. Her stepping down leaves the state House at a 101-101 tie for the majority.
Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/ Delaware) has called for a special election for the seat on September 19. Assuming it takes 2-3 weeks after the election to certify the winner, it appears that October is a good target date.
“House Democrats have shut this body down and they will be doing it again when Galloway wins his magisterial district justice seat, so that will shut us down from October to February. So you can just plan on that.”
State Rep. John Galloway (D-Bucks) is a candidate for the magisterial judge position in District 07-1-10. He won both the Democratic and Republican primaries for the bench. A fall victory would necessitate another special election in the 140th District, most likely in January 2024.
Grove discussed the standoff for funding with Pennsylvania’s state-related universities – Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln – comparing their request versus the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP).
“When we talk about universities, there’s one area that we always miss because community colleges, PASSHE, state related they’re all in the budgets,” he said. “Independent universities and colleges. There’s 90 of them across Pennsylvania. They get literally almost zero funding from the state government.”
“They actually educate 52 percent of Pennsylvania students. They get eight percent of the higher ed funding. State-related gets 31% and PASSHE 40%.
“We House Republicans have said funding state universities will be dependent upon certain conditions being met discussions on student funding compliance with right to know tuition freezes. These are all part of the Keystone commitment to a child first family focused education moving forward.
“I want to want to break this down,” he continued. “This is how much taxpayer costs per degree awarded. Obviously we own PASSHE, so they’re going to have a higher number of amount of taxpayer dollars going to each degree awarded in their university. State-related (universities) – $16,179. AICUP colleges – $2,102.
“The biggest question we have with funding these (state-related) institutions is what is their funding level for this year. Nobody knows because people need to get in a room and solve this budget crisis.”
Grove was also questioned on the fairness of holding up a $45.5B budget over a $100M allotment on school vouchers, referred to as lifeline scholarships or the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success Scholarship Program (PASS).
“The Senate Republicans were very clear. (Senate President Pro Tempore) Kim Ward (D-Westmoreland) was very clear. We’re not doing the budget without lifeline scholarships. It’s been an agenda item. It was last session, the house that we actually lifted lifeline scholarships last session. So everyone was aware of exactly where the Senate Republicans were on this. (Governor) Josh Shapiro knew. House Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery) knew. Everybody in that room exactly knew where that was. I did not buy for a second that this was a surprise and just kind of thrown out there at the last second.
“(House Democrats) have not discussed anything and that’s part of the problem,” he continued. “To get this budget done with the governor, one of his main objectives is getting scholarships done. You’re gonna need House Republican votes. So we’re willing and more than willing, we’ve been willing to work. You got to have the conversation first. And like I said the first time the House Democrats want to have a conversation with us about the nonpreferred was July 6, six days after the budget deadline.”
There was some back-and-forth about where exactly the budget bill resides today. Grove stated that it is located in the House, while others have indicated that it rests in the Senate and awaits the body’s return for the signature of the lieutenant governor.
“I don’t believe for a second House Democrats are bringing us back until they have 102 votes. So you’re here you’re not going to you’re not going to see any conclusion of this until October timeframe at the earliest.”