Moving on From Budget Gridlock

Published December 22, 2015

Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee voted to send a $28.2 billion funding bill to the full House for consideration. The bill is the latest effort to end the six-month budget impasse after Gov. Wolf’s budget framework fell apart this past weekend.

The bill delivers emergency funding to schools and human services agencies for 11 months without requiring any tax increases—a vast improvement over the governor’s most recent proposal, which would have increased taxes by more than a billion dollars.

Here are some of the notable appropriations in the emergency funding bill:

  • Education (includes funding for state-related universities): $10.613 billion
  • Human Services: $11.039 billion
  • Corrections: $2.047 billion
  • Treasury (mostly debt service): $1.178 billion

Indeed, the more than $10.6 billion for education is a record high, demonstrating Republicans’ willingness to compromise with the governor, who has made higher education funding his number one priority. In exchange for the increase in funding, the legislation prevents tax hikes on working families—an important goal for Republican lawmakers.

The legislation is by no means perfect, and it is no one’s first option, but it is the most responsible way to break the budget gridlock. Gov. Wolf and Democratic lawmakers continues to insist on the “framework budget,” but with the defeat of pension reform it’s clear the “framework” is dead.

The governor needs to drop his demand for higher taxes so lawmakers can begin discussing how to fix the state’s long-term fiscal challenges without a crisis hanging over their heads.

Students and taxpayers should not be leveraged to advance a political agenda. Crisis budgeting is irresponsible, and it’s time to bring it to an end.

Bob Dick ([email protected]) is a policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation. An earlier version of this article appeared at Reprinted with permission.