Peter Hall, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
December 14, 2023
In a late night voting session on Wednesday more than five months after its deadline passed, the Pennsylvania Legislature sent the final pieces of the state budget to Gov. Josh Shapiro to sign.
Despite the delay, Shapiro called the budget legislation historic and touted investments in education, health care, criminal justice and support for working families. He also praised lawmakers in the House and Senate for working together to accomplish legislative goals.
“We wrapped up a lot of unfinished business here together tonight,” Shapiro said at a news conference Wednesday night. “But on top of that, we’re going beyond what the budget that I signed this past summer calls for in delivering even more for families and improving our criminal justice system.” His office announced at 11:29 p.m. Wednesday that the governor had signed the legislation.
The Legislature passed School Code and Fiscal Code bills to complete its part in the budget process. The code bills authorize state agencies to spend the money included in the general appropriations bill, which Shapiro signed in August.
Both bills passed with broad bipartisan support in each chamber despite the partisan gridlock that had kept the legislation unfinished since June.
The Fiscal Code bill, House Bill 1300, releases hundreds of millions in funding for a variety of agencies and programs:
- $392 million a year for 911 services, an increase of just over $60 million, which is raised from an increased surcharge on phone bills,
- $7.5 million for the commonwealth’s first ever investment in public defenders,
- $12 million to provide improved dental care for Medical Assistance recipients,
- A tax credit that allows families to exclude assistance from an employer for dependent care from their income for state tax purposes. It will save taxpayers about $6.2 million next year,
- An increase in the amount that families can claim for work-related child care expenses that will save taxpayers about $125 million next year.
“We are getting this done for our families across Pennsylvania in a bipartisan manner,” Shapiro said. “That is huge, and it’s going to impact 210,000 families all across the Commonwealth.”
On Wednesday, lawmakers also finally passed about three dozen bills, including criminal justice reforms to allow people who receive pardons to have their criminal records automatically expunged and changes to the probation system to keep people from receiving violations for technical infractions.
Speaking at the news conference shortly before 11 p.m. with Shapiro, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) lauded what he called a historic $900 million transfer into the state’s rainy day fund.
“We now have a rainy day fund that allows us to be prepared for an inevitable rainy day, and that long term fiscal stability will continue to be a hallmark of our Senate Republican majority,” Pittman said.
The School Code bills also releases millions in funding for libraries, community colleges, environmental remediation for school buildings and the upgrade and replacement of aging buildings.
House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) said that as a representative for the William Penn School District in Delaware County, the lead plaintiff in the decade-long lawsuit over Pennsylvania’s education funding system, she was proud of the accomplishments for students.
“I look forward to us standing here six or seven months from now, being able to talk about even more accomplishments for all of our students,” McClinton said.
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