An update on the state budget impasse | Five for the Weekend

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is still without a finalized spending plan for the 2023-24 fiscal year

By: - July 15, 2023 6:30 am
The floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (Photo by Amanda Mustard for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).

The floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (Photo by Amanda Mustard for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).

Happy weekend, all. 

More than two weeks into the 2023-24 fiscal year, Pennsylvania is still without finished spending plan.

The impasse, caused by disagreement over a proposal to fund private school tuition vouchers with taxpayer dollars, is still ongoing, and with lawmakers not scheduled to return to Harrisburg until mid-September, shows no signs of progress any time soon.

Capital-Star Reporters Marley Parish and Peter Hall detail what the ongoing impasse means for state and local programs that depend on state dollars to fund their operations and important initiatives.

Read it here: Pa. is still without a final budget. What does the impasse mean for state, county programs?

As always, the top five stories from this week are below.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

1. Republicans crying over cocaine at the White House have forgotten Jan. 6 | Dick Polman

What a perfect holiday-week news story, the equivalent of a brainless summer movie.

Some clown recently left a small baggie of cocaine in the White House visitors area, thus inspiring various clowns in the MAGA cult (especially the twice-indicted clown) to froth at the mouth. Suddenly they’re all concerned about “security,” which would be laughable if it were not so detestable, given how they were fine with their thugs beating up on Jan. 6 and smearing feces on Capitol corridor walls.

A statue of Union Major General Henry Warner Slocum stands on Stevens Knoll at the Gettysburg National Military Park on August 11, 2020 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (Getty Images)

2. My reflections on the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg | Charles D. Allen  

A decade ago, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, there was a phenomenal program of authors and speakers to set the strategic and cultural context for the events of July 1 to July 3, 1863.

I watched a great deal of the program on CSPAN3. A closing segment of the cable broadcast featured callers from across the United States.  A California woman remarked there was little to no attendance by African-Americans for the day’s commemorative event.  She asked “why not?” since the battle and the war led to their freedom from slavery.

As a young boy growing up in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1960s, I had no awareness of the American Civil War.

I did know that I was Black in America and there was a difference in how we expected to be treated when visiting our grandparents “down South” in Alabama.

Penn Wood High School in the William Penn School District. Landsdowne, Pennsylvania on June 15, 2023. (Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star)

3. Pennsylvania House passes bill giving schools flexibility to hire substitutes

Pennsylvania schools could hire retired teachers as substitutes under a bill passed by the state House on Thursday that makes a pandemic-era law giving some flexibility to address the staffing crisis permanent.

Lawmakers in the lower chamber unanimously voted to approve legislation introduced by Rep. James Struzzi, R-Indiana, that continues letting schools hire retired educators as substitute teachers on an emergency or short-term basis — an allowance initially passed by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Tom Wolf in 2021 but expired at the end of the most recent academic year.

“Act 91 of 2021 gave schools flexibility regarding the shortage of day-to-day substitute teachers,” Struzzi said. “It dealt with employing annuitants, prospective teachers, and graduates of educator preparation programs as substitutes, something we should continue to do since the shortage still exists.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro delivers his first budget address to a joint session of the state House and Senate on March 7, 2023 (Photo by Amanda Mustard for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).
Gov. Josh Shapiro delivers his first budget address to a joint session of the state House and Senate on March 7, 2023 (Photo by Amanda Mustard for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).

4. Pa. lawmakers, advocates react to state budget passage

The state House voted 117-86 to pass a proposed $45.5 billion state budget late Wednesday, sending the spending plan to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk for a signature.

In a statement following Wednesday’s vote, Shapiro said he was proud of the final budget, calling it a “statement of our priorities.”

“Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with a full-time, divided legislature – meaning nothing gets done unless it can make it through our Republican-led Senate and our Democratic-led House. I’m proud that this budget – one that makes historic investments in public education, public safety, workforce development, agriculture, and economic development – passed both the House and Senate, and I look forward to signing it.”


5. Is Pennsylvania any closer to having legal weed?

Even with a Democratic majority in the state House and a governor who included legalized adult-use marijuana in his future budget projections, the commonwealth is no closer to creating a regulated recreational cannabis market.

Pennsylvania remains one of the only states in the region not to have established or be in the process of debating weed legalization. Neighboring states, including New York and New Jersey have fully established adult-use recreational markets. To the south, Delaware and Maryland’s state legislatures recently passed measures to begin regulating, licensing and taxing for cannabis sales.

And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here next week. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.