The PA House and Senate pushed through a $1.3 billion revenue package Wednesday afternoon, and Gov. Tom Wolf said he would sign the bill and “avoid another lengthy impasse.”
“Over the last several months, I have worked together with Republicans and Democrats to achieve major progress on issues including the legalization of medical marijuana, the passage of historic liquor reform, and the enactment of a fair funding formula that ensures basic education funding is distributed to schools based on a district’s unique needs,” Wolf said in a statement. “Recently, we also came together to pass a budget that included historic investment in education at all levels and much-needed funding to combat Pennsylvania’s heroin crisis. Today’s passage of a revenue package means that we avoid another lengthy impasse, our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the commonwealth’s structural budget deficit.”
After some spirited debate – highlighted by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe reading the lyrics to The Beatles’ “Taxman” in urging his colleagues to reject the measure – the House of Representatives approved the revenue package by a 116-75 vote. The Senate passed the bill 28-22.
The passage of the revenue package comes less than 48 hours after a $31.6 billion spending plan became law without Wolf’s signature. The 2016-17 budget has been finished less than two weeks late, just three months on from the record nine-month standoff over the 2015-16 budget.
The revenue package includes an estimated $431 million from a $1/pack tax increase on cigarettes and $149 million from expanded liquor and wine sales. Smokeless tobacco is earmarked to bring in $46.2 million, while e-cigarette revenues are projected at $13.3 million.
Lawmakers are expecting $100 million from Internet gaming and off-track betting parlors, and are taking away the sales tax exemption on digital downloads for another $47 million. The state will also borrow $200 million to balance the budget.
Under the 2016-17 budget, Wolf will get “historic increases in education funding that begin to restore the deep cuts made during the previous administration,” including additional $200 million for basic education, $40 million for higher education, $30 million for early childhood education, $20 million for special education, and $10 million for early intervention programs.
The second-year Governor will be given $15 million in state funding, plus $5.4 million in federal funding, to implement programs and construct treatment centers to fight PA’s heroin and opioid epidemic.