Wolf signs budget, vetoes GOP-led election reform bill

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at an event in May in Mechanics­burg. Wolf is expected to sign the state budget package this week, after negotiations late last week.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed the proposed $40.8 billion budget, which he said includes the largest education funding increase in state history.

Wolf's signature comes after a slew of negotiations with Republicans, who managed to convince the governor to greenlight setting aside $5 billion in unspent funds from the American Rescue Plan for future budgets.

Negotiations also led to Wolf putting an additional $2.5 billion in federal relief funds into the state's rainy day fund.

“It is a budget that will help those hit hardest by the pandemic get the support they need, while at the same time making crucial investments in our future by supporting the students and workers who will drive our economy forward in the years to come," Wolf said in a statement. 

More:Ed funding, virus relief at top of Pa. budget agenda

More:As Pa. House advances doomed election overhaul, Senate GOP charts different course to voter ID, other changes

Wolf initially wanted more than $1 billion in additional investments in the state's schools, but he settled during negotiations with Republicans who wanted to curb spending.

After settling, the budget now only includes $300 million extra for school districts' operations, $100 million of which is set aside for districts that have historically reaped the least benefits of the fair funding formula.

In total, the budget calls for a $416 million increase in funding for public education.

While Wolf celebrated the increase in education funding, he said he was disappointed in Republicans for not agreeing to his initial funding request.

In addition to signing the budget, Wolf vetoed an election bill sponsored by state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township. Wolf has argued that the bill would infringe on voters' rights.

The bill aimed to rewrite the state's election code and came on the heels of Republicans casting doubt on the results of the 2020 election.

The bill would have required voters to show identification every time they vote instead of only when they are voting at a polling site for the first time. It also would have limited the number of mail-in ballot boxes counties can set up and moved back both the deadline for applying for absentee ballots and the deadline to register to vote.

Wolf vetoed not only that bill but also a line item in the budget that would have funded an election audit bureau.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.