Gov. Shapiro signs Pennsylvania’s $45.5B budget after a month-long impasse
The Republican-controlled state Senate returned to Harrisburg for a non-voting session to sign the budget bill.
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Pennsylvania state Senate Republican leaders called their colleagues back to the Capitol in Harrisburg to complete work in a non-voting session to sign the state’s $45.5 billion budget bill.
The main spending plan came to the governor’s desk later on Thursday afternoon after a final signature in the Senate occurred. Shapiro’s signature ended a month-long impasse and allowed millions of dollars to begin flowing to counties and school districts that were preparing to empty out their reserves or consider taking out loans to continue necessary operations.
The first-year governor signed the bill, but vetoed an education voucher program.
Thursday’s breakthrough is another step closer to making it official, but more work is still needed to complete the last portion of the entire $45 billion budget. The state legislature must write language directing roughly $1.1 billion to fund initiatives, such as student teaching stipend, student mental health grants, funds to boost some of the state’s poorest school districts and home repair subsidies, according to Senate Republicans.
Legislative action is also needed for hundreds of millions of dollars meant for state-owned universities.
Majority Leader Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, said that the large undirected funds show that “the Legislature holds the power of the purse whenever it comes to determining how taxpayer dollars are spent.”
“This is not a final completed product. This is not a final and complete process,” he said.
The state budget hit an obstacle in early July after conflict regarding a GOP proposal to create a $100 million program subsidizing students in the lowest performing districts so they can attend private and religious schools.
The governor initially supported the proposal, much to the opposition of Democrats and teachers’ unions. Hoping to avoid an impasse, Shapiro announced that he would veto it. When the Senate got together to send the bill to him, Pittman asked Shapiro to keep it, but shortly after the budget reached him on Thursday, the governor vetoed that provision.
“Improving and expanding opportunities for children remains a priority for me, and I consider this to be unfinished business all parties must work together on as we move forward,” Shapiro wrote in a veto message.
According to a spokeswoman for House Democratic leadership, all parties continue to meet, and the chamber will return to session to complete the outstanding pieces needed “as negotiations are finalized.”
Pennsylvania is one of four states that failed to complete a budget by the start of the fiscal year, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. They are also the only ones that do not allow spending to continue automatically.