Pittman: Hundreds of millions in state funding could be at risk without more budget bills

Meanwhile, the leader for House Democrats urged the Senate to advance an already-passed $45.5B spending plan

By: - July 12, 2023 10:30 am

Pa. Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, responds to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget address during a news conference in the state Capitol on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 (Photo by Amanda Mustard for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).

By Justin Sweitzer

Amid an ongoing budget impasse in Harrisburg, the leader of the Senate Republican Caucus is warning his Democratic counterpart in the state House that hundreds of millions of dollars in funding could be at risk if lawmakers don’t fully finalize a state budget.

House Majority Leader Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, speaks with reporters Thursday, June 29, 2023, after the state Senate passed a school vouchers bill tied to its budget proposal. (Capital-Star photo by Peter Hall)

In a letter sent to House Democratic Leader Matt Bradford,  on Tuesday, Senate Majority Joe Pittman wrote that the state budget process is not yet complete and that lawmakers must pass budget-enabling legislation for several major programs and initiatives to be funded.

“We are now in day eleven of the new fiscal year. We still do not have a completed budget product. Please let me know if you plan to vote on any of the remaining budget implementation legislation. The Senate sees little value in returning to session and allowing House Bill 611 to reach the Governor’s desk without addressing the remaining work needed to implement a budget,” Pittman, R-Indiana, wrote.

In his letter to Bradford, Pittman said many appropriations in the spending plan will “need implementation language before the programs can be funded.”

He pointed to the $100 million Pennsylvania Award for Student Success private school scholarship program – which is at the center of the impasse – as a program that could lose out on funding if budget-enacting legislation is not passed.

“Like the PASS Scholarships line item, there are many new lines contained in House Bill 611 where the General Assembly has not statutorily provided for adequate standards or guidance to spend the money that has been appropriated,” Pittman wrote. “A few examples include, but are not limited to, Indigent Defense, Foundations in Industry and Teacher Stipends.”

Pittman said other programs, including the Whole Home Repairs program and Level Up education funding, could also be impacted in the absence of new budget language.

He also said that without a change to the current law, “payments to school districts for basic education would be $550 million less than it appears in House Bill 611” due to conflicting budget implementation language.

After the House adjourned for the summer last week, Bradford told reporters that there’s “going to be some period of time where we’ve got to reset.”

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