(The Center Square) – Three session days remain on the legislative calendar for this year, but it’s unclear if lawmakers will bring a completed budget along with them into 2024.
Nearly six months past due, the General Assembly and Gov. Josh Shapiro lack agreement on code bills that enable funding for education programs high on the priority list for both chambers.
The progress since Shapiro signed an initial spending plan in August – which completed about 75 percent of the process – has been incremental, with support for ambulance reimbursement rates, hospital relief and an emergency savings deposit finding a way to the governor’s desk.
The rest – including extra money for struggling districts, mental health and school safety grants, funding for school environmental repairs, community colleges, public libraries and educational tax credits – remain up in the air.
It would not be the first time a budget limped into a new year undone, though it’s not an example legislative sources thought the new administration would want to emulate.
Shapiro, for his part, says it’s up to the divided Legislature to hash out agreements and send them to his desk. That’s been an uphill battle.
The Republican-majority Senate and Democratic-majority House ping-ponged bills throughout the fall, though each time key provisions – like the Senate’s priority funding for school choice tax credits or the House’s preference for bigger block grants – were amended out, much to the chagrin of each other.
The most recent attempt, House Bill 301, included $150 million for the former and $295 million for the latter. The proposal passed the Senate 45-5, though the House amended out the school choice money before sending it back to the upper chamber for agreement.
The move, according to sources, threw a wrench into the plan. It’s unclear what the next move will be. A Senate leadership spokeswoman said the voting agenda for the last three session days of the year is still undecided.
The Center Square reached out to House Democrats for comment about negotiations but did not receive a response before publication.
Both chambers return to Harrisburg on Dec. 11, though any unfinished business will follow them into January. Shapiro will reveal his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year in February.
Christen Smith is the Pennsylvania editor for The Center Square newswire service and co-host of Pennsylvania in Focus, a weekly podcast on America’s Talking Network. Find her work in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Broad + Liberty, RealClear, the Washington Examiner, and elsewhere.
This article was republished with permission from The Center Square.