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The Countdown to a New State Budget Has Begun

It’s budget season in Pennsylvania and that means that jockeying between Democrats and Republicans is in full force when it comes to the Commonwealth’s 2024-25 financing bill.

And with 11 planned session days scheduled between today and the end of the month, expect to hear phrases such as “investing in Pennsylvania” and “fiscally responsible budget” a lot during the upcoming weeks.

PA Budget Deadline

Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed a $48.3 billion budget that he claims will still leave the state with a healthy rainy day fund, even if every spending proposal he has made is adopted.

Republicans, especially those who control the state Senate, disagree. They believe that the $14 billion surplus will be erased within a few years, especially as the governor starts by tapping $3 billion for spending in 24-25.

The good news for Democrats who control the state House is that according to the Independent Fiscal Office, fiscal-year-to-date revenues are $320 million higher than expected, including a two percent increase in May 2024 from May 2023.

The challenge is closing a $5.1 billion adequacy gap in public school funding that Commonwealth Court has told the General Assembly to solve … in this upcoming budget.

That brings up a sore subject with lawmakers – school vouchers.

Last year, Senate Republicans felt betrayed by the governor, after supposedly agreeing to a deal in support of vouchers, Shapiro vetoed the programs when he could not secure the votes in the Democrat-controlled House.

As the sides returned to their respective corners, Republicans are now digging in to ensure that a repeat does not occur. School-choice advocates are well-funded and are pushing their message to give students in struggling schools a chance to attend private schools,. Public school proponents are spending thousands of dollars for their call that any voucher program would hurt those schools.

And Shapiro, who ran on serving as a bipartisan governor, would like a win by attaching vouchers to new investments in public schools.

“You can expect to see the governor continuing to be on the road in June, meeting Pennsylvanians where they are, meeting them in their communities, and talking about how we need to get stuff done on the issues that matter most,” said press secretary Manuel Bonder.

Republicans have also called for a historic tax cut that would save Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $13 billion over the next five years. The bill (S.B. 269) would reduce the Personal Income Tax rate from 3.07 percent to 2.8% and eliminate the Gross Receipts Tax on energy, effective on January 1, 2025.

“As we go through budget negotiations, and the push and pull of wherever we may end up, our Senate Republican Caucus is going to continue to fight for Pennsylvania taxpayers, first and foremost,” said Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana). “There has been a lot of discussion about $3 billion of additional spending. Our point of view is if we’re going to invest $3 billion, we should invest it back into the taxpayers.”


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