The Pennsylvania Senate returns to Harrisburg this week at a critical time in the state budget process. More than $1.1 billion in state funding remains in legislative limbo, despite Gov. Josh Shapiro having signed Pennsylvania’s main budget bill more than three weeks ago.
Disagreements between the GOP-led Senate and Gov. Shapiro have stalled progress on this funding, which includes programs ranging from education to emergency services.
Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward announced last week that the Senate would return three weeks earlier than originally scheduled to resume work on the underlying code legislation, emphasizing that some matters “continue to be negotiated.”
Several education programs are still awaiting the green light, including $100 million in Level Up funding intended to support the Commonwealth’s poorest school districts.
Related programs stuck in limbo include $10 million for student teachers, $100 million for school mental health services, $50 million for emergency hospital relief, and $20.7 for increased ambulance service reimbursements. These programs cannot move forward until necessary code bills are signed into law.
Additionally, $175 million in funding for Pennsylvania’s Whole-Home Repairs program, which provides homeowners with up to $50,000 in direct loans/grants from the Department of Community and Economic Development for home repairs and upgrades, remains caught up in negotiations. This amount represents a $50 million increase over the amount federally funded for the past two years, the difference coming out of state revenues.
The state’s $7.5 million allocation for public defense (its first-ever) is also on hold. Supporters argue this funding is overdue as most states fund public defense in some capacity. They also assert this funding would help municipal governments alleviate a significant budgetary burden.
All eyes will be on the state Capitol this week as lawmakers return to close the deal on a state budget process that is now months in the making. Pennsylvania’s business community will be watching closely as the funding for these programs will have far-reaching impacts on our state’s education, healthcare, and emergency services.