Details of Pennsylvania budget bills becoming law
HARRISBURG — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf relented on his threat to veto Republican spending legislation, despite calling it out of balance Wednesday. Republicans say it resolves nine months of budget gridlock that had left schools and universities warning of closures or layoffs.
Here are the highlights of what will become law, without Wolf’s signature:
THE BIG PICTURE
The main appropriations bill on Wolf’s desk is an about $6 billion spending plan that completes a $30 billion spending package for the year, ending nearly nine months of partisan gridlock in Harrisburg. The package includes $578 million in aid to universities — Penn State, Temple, Pitt, Lincoln and the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school.
HOW IT GOT HERE
In December, a Wolf-supported bipartisan agreement collapsed after House GOP leaders pulled their support. That had involved a $30.8 billion spending package and a tax increase of more than $1 billion that Wolf had sought to resolve a long-term deficit and to begin wiping out 2011’s budget-balancing funding cuts to public schools.
As a fallback, Republican majorities passed the main appropriations bill in a $30.3 billion budget package, despite Wolf’s opposition. Wolf vetoed $6.3 billion from the package, primarily for prisons, public schools and Medicaid reimbursements to insurance companies. University subsidies remained stalled in the House until Wednesday.
Republicans say a tax increase is unnecessary to make the $30 billion budget package balance. It would rely on a projected $30.9 billion in tax collections, plus an expected $50 million casino license fee, before subtracting more than $1.3 billion in refunds.
HOW IT BALANCES
Republicans say the plan would use about $260 million in carried-over money and $200 million in unused program money. The state would forgo a $305 million payment it regularly makes for its portion of school construction projects and delay more than $200 million in payments for Social Security taxes for school employees and reimbursements to counties for child welfare costs.
It also counts about $150 million in savings in some Medicaid programs, in part because of enrollees becoming covered by broadened federal eligibility guidelines that carry a higher federal cost-sharing rate.
The appropriations bill carries just over $3.1 billion for public school instruction and operations, which would bring the total appropriated for the year to $5.9 billion, a $200 million increase. Wolf had originally sought a $400 million increase, and the bipartisan deal that collapsed had contained $350 million.