The clock is running out on Gov. Tom Wolf and GOP leaders as they try to end the 20-week budget impasse by Thanksgiving.
The first-year Democrat and Republican legislative leaders are ironing out details on a deal that would bring in an additional $2 billion for the fiscal year that started July 1. Under the agreement, $400 million in additional funding will be plowed into the state’s school system, with homeowners set to see their property taxes rolled back.
The deal does not contain a natural gas severance tax but does include a 1.25% increase in the sales tax statewide, which some Democrats in the General Assembly see as a “red flag” for a regressive tax code, Marc Levy of the Associated Press reports.
“That’s a lot to ask a Democrat to vote for that,” State Sen. Daylin Leach said. “We usually ask Republicans to vote for that.”
Wolf is willing to give up on the severance tax to bring Republicans on board with his effort to close the gap between PA’s rich and poor school districts.
The economic disparities in the state’s school system are among the nation’s worst, but it’s unclear whether the latest proposals will reduce that gap. Under Wolf’s plans, Philadelphia’s school system would receive 14% of the state’s education funding. Philly schools would receive less than 5% under GOP proposals.
GOP legislators in wealthier districts are concerned about becoming “donor districts” that send more money to Harrisburg than they receive in funding.
“My concern with a shift to sending our dollars to Harrisburg is they get put through some funky formula and we don’t get dollar-for-dollar back,” Bucks State Rep. Marguerite Quinn told the AP. “So I’m a proponent of the local control with it.”
Even if Gov. Tom Wolf and top Republicans can reach an agreement, it’s unclear whether enough legislators will vote for it.