Our long, statewide nightmare is (almost) over.
On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Josh Shapiro received Pennsylvania’s main budget bill from the state Senate and signed it into law.
“The people of Pennsylvania have entrusted me with the responsibility to bring people together in a divided legislature and to get things done for them – and with this commonsense budget, that’s exactly what we’ve done,” said Shapiro.
“Throughout my campaign and in my first budget address, I laid out a vision for how the Commonwealth could create real opportunity and advance real freedom for all Pennsylvanians. With this budget and the expansion of the Property Tax/Rent Rebate, we’re making good on that promise by delivering the largest targeted tax cut for our seniors in nearly two decades, creating real opportunity for our workers by expanding vo-tech and apprenticeship programs, supporting our state troopers and local first responders, and making historic investments in our kids and their schools.
“This is what it looks like when government works together to make Pennsylvanians’ lives better.”
The $45.5 billion budget does not include an allocation for one of the Senate Republicans’ key priorities – the Pennsylvania Award For Student Success Program (PASS) – also known as Lifeline Scholarships. Shapiro used a line-item veto to strike the $100 million appropriation as promised.
There is still more work to be done to move out the last portion of the entire $45 billion budget, as the Legislature must write language directing at least $1.1 billion to fund initiatives.
“Regrettably, the House and Senate were unable to reach an agreement on legislation establishing PASS; a proposal I support. Knowing that the two chambers cannot reach consensus at this time to enact enabling legislation for PASS and my unwillingness to hold up our entire budget process and all of this progress for the people of Pennsylvania over one issue, I am line-item vetoing the full $100 million appropriated for PASS and signing this budget so we can make the critical investments our communities need.
“It has become clear through this budget process that our divided legislature needs to find ways to work together so that we can address the challenges facing our Commonwealth, from education to public safety to economic development,” wrote Shapiro in a letter to the House of Representatives. “Leaders from both parties need to talk with one another, understand each other’s perspectives and meaningfully engage each other.”
“What remains truly disappointing about this year’s state budget process is the opportunity that has been missed to work across the aisle to achieve something truly substantial for Pennsylvania’s students and families,” House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “Instead, we are left with broken trust among those sent to Harrisburg by Pennsylvanians expecting their interests to be put first.
“We remain ready, willing and able to work with anyone who wants to work with us to finalize important budget-related bills, but continued silence and intransigence from our colleagues across the aisle will only prolong this unnecessary impasse to the detriment of Pennsylvanians.”
The House Democratic Caucus Leadership Team issued a statement, saying “After an irresponsible and unnecessary 29-day delay, the Senate finally returned to Harrisburg to complete its simple administrative task of signing the budget sent to them in early July. We look forward to Governor Shapiro line item vetoing the unagreed to private school voucher appropriation and approving the balance of the bill … and finally provide funding for our schools, county human services, and other critical programs for the fiscal year that began over a month ago so that they can move forward with their mission of serving Pennsylvanians.”
“Governor Shapiro’s decision to veto the Lifeline/PASS Scholarships, while not unexpected, is disappointing and unnecessary, said Nathan Benefield, Commonwealth Foundation Senior Vice President. “The Governor’s bungling of this budget leaves tens of thousands of children trapped in Pennsylvania’s worst-performing schools, devoid of meaningful opportunities to succeed.”
“I am disappointed Gov. Shapiro followed through on breaking his word by line-item vetoing Lifeline Scholarships in House Bill 611,” said House Republican Appropriations Chairman Seth Grove (R-York). “I applaud President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Scott Martin for acting as the adults in the room to complete this step in the budget process. It’s unfortunate they were put in this position by the governor to begin with. We now look to Gov. Shapiro to stand by his word on the code bills to gain back trust in this budget process and future legislative work.”
“Today, HB 611, the 2023-24 Budget bill, was signed in the Senate. This is an important step in delivering a budget that works for every Pennsylvanian, but there is more work to do to land this plane. All parties must come together to pass a fiscal code and finish the job,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny).
“All parties continue to meet to negotiate the few remaining budget related issues and House Democrats will return to session as negotiations are finalized.”