By a 28-19 vote, the Pennsylvania Senate approved a fiscal code bill that includes Lifeline Scholarships, referred to as the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Program, and the expansion of Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit.
“The Senate has done their best to give Gov. (Josh) Shapiro and his counterparts in the House the necessary time to work through their party challenges, but the time has come that we must move beyond the broken deals and words and complete our work to ensure the fiscal solvency of our state,” Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) said.
“With today’s action by the Senate, it is imperative that the House return quickly to session to complete the work of the people they represent even if to provide a counteroffer to what has been passed. Senate Republicans will continue to negotiate in good faith and in the best interest of Pennsylvanians.”
“Today the Senate has written another chapter in the budget story – one which will help all communities throughout our commonwealth,” Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Armstrong/Indiana/Jefferson/
“While this implementation legislation does not fully finalize the 2023-24 state budget, it takes a significant step to move Pennsylvania forward. It is time we talk about what we can do as a divided government and not what we can’t do. We must show that we can move forward with the most basic parameters that make our government function. I implore the House to come back and work with us to solve real problems for the people of Pennsylvania.”
“The people who sent us to Harrisburg expect us to work together to meet the needs of our communities,” state Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), chair of the Appropriations Committee said. “Our priority today was to move the budget process forward and advance the funding our constituents urgently need. As negotiations continue in the weeks ahead, we welcome our colleagues in the House of Representatives to join us in coming back to session immediately to complete the 2023-24 budget. We cannot let politics stand in the way of doing the right thing for Pennsylvanians.”
“The Senate took a necessary step to move forward on completing a budget. This action shows there is bipartisan support for a deal that delivers for students and taxpayers,” said Nathan Benefield, senior vice president at the Commonwealth Foundation. “The onus now lies with House Democrats and Shapiro—the final roadblocks to finalizing the state budget.”
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives must agree to fiscal code legislation before the state budget is complete. The House has been in recess since July 11 and isn’t scheduled to return until September 26.
House Bill 1300 directs funding to many non-controversial and bipartisan budget items related to education, including:
- Providing for a two-year tuition freeze for PASSHE schools.
- Allocating more than $260 million for community colleges.
- Distributing more than $70 million in state aid for libraries.
- Allocating more than $76 million for special education funding for Intermediate Units.
- Reimbursing schools for providing free breakfasts for all students ($46.5 million).
- Transferring more than $8.5 million to maintain current PHEAA grant levels.
- Distributing $11 million in grants for non-public school safety initiatives.
The Senate also voted to advance Senate Bill 757, which addresses other priorities included in the original budget deal Senate Republicans negotiated with Shapiro in June.
This includes the creation of the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) program to provide additional educational options for students in failing schools, as well as $150 million in new funding for the state’s popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit program to expand educational opportunities to families throughout the state.
Democratic senators Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) and Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia), along with Republican Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) were absent. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) crossed the aisle to vote for the package.