House Passes Emergency State Funding Bill to Release School Payments and Critical Funding for Human Service Agencies
Negotiations continue as governor acknowledges all items to be negotiated, including liquor and pension reform
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today voted 117-83 for an emergency funding bill aimed at getting state funds to agencies, schools and students, House Republican leaders said.
The legislation already passed the Senate last week. If signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, it would distribute $11.2 billion in state funds desperately needed by human service agencies and schools. This includes county child welfare agencies, homeless shelters and food pantries, many of which are closing their doors or cutting services. Many schools are currently unable to purchase textbooks. Other schools are considering closures due to the budget being vetoed by the governor back in June.
“Schools without textbooks and crisis centers with limited hours or closures are not ‘temporary inconveniences’ and are unacceptable,” House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana County) said. “The vetoed budget is affecting real people with real problems, and there is no legitimate reason for it to continue – especially since we all agree on the majority of these funding levels and are working to compromise.”
It is the constitutional obligation of the General Assembly to appropriate state and federal funds.
“Taxes are being collected, agencies and schools need their funding, and it is our job to get them their funding,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware County) said. “We have an emergency funding bill here to get necessary dollars to help school kids, seniors and others who need a hand. We need to help them. It is that simple.”
While the governor continues to hold firm to his plan to increase taxes, which would cost Pennsylvanians nearly $5 billion in the current fiscal year and at least $8 billion annually after that, Republicans have continually focused on the middle-class families who will be footing the tax bill.
“Pennsylvania’s well-being is our top priority, both in the long term and the short term,” Majority Whip Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster County) said. “As we proceed with budget negotiations so residents are not financially strained by unthinkable tax increases, we understand that short-term needs must also be met. Pennsylvania needs the governor to sign the emergency state funding bill so vital funding for our schools and most vulnerable citizens is no longer held hostage to political negotiations.”
The emergency funding bill package provides $11.2 billion in state funds and $24 billion in federal funds. It allocates one-third of the state funding as authorized by House Bill 1192
. Yet it will also fully cover the state’s bond debt service, federal funds and special funds. Funding for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency grants and the county child welfare appropriation will be at 50 percent.
The leaders reiterated their commitment to continue working to bridge divides between the governor and the Legislature, including the overall final spending number and revenues; reforming the public pension systems; and changing the way Pennsylvania buys and sells wine and spirits.
Last week, the governor put forward proposals regarding wine and spirit sales in the Commonwealth and public pension reform. Through his proposal, the governor has finally conceded the private sector can manage both wholesale and retail wine and spirit sales better than state government. Through his pension reform proposal, he has also conceded the current system is broken and in need of wholesale change.
“The governor presented us with proposals on pensions and liquor that were very loose on detail. But it’s clear that he has finally begun to acknowledge that the private sector is best suited to operate the sale of wine and spirits and that pension reform must include a transition to a 401K-style system to help stabilize our state’s financial future,” Reed said. “In the meantime, we remain optimistic the governor will realize the necessity of signing the emergency funding bill, which he initially supported.”
The emergency funding bill is the latest effort by the House to keep core government functions open and operating. The General Assembly passed a balanced budget on June 30, but it was vetoed in its entirety by the governor. In August, the House attempted to override some of the governor’s vetoes – focusing on line items all parties agreed upon – but the House Democrats refused to support these efforts.
The emergency funding bill now heads to the governor, who alone will make the decision to release the emergency funds for the most vulnerable.
Representative Dave Reed, Majority Leader
Representative Bryan Cutler, Majority Whip
Representative Bill Adolph, Approriations Committee Chairman
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Stephen Miskin