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Press Release

Penn Policy Center Statement on PA Budget Passage

By Press Release, Press Statement

July 5, 2023

For Immediate Release

Contact: Kirstin Snow,

Penn Policy Center Statement on Budget Passage

Governor Shapiro’s letter announcing that he would line-item veto the appropriation for vouchers in the budget passed by the Senate last week clears the way for the House to also pass the budget and send it to the Governor for his signature.

Enacting a budget that doesn’t include a voucher plan is a victory, especially because that plan would have likely been a first step toward the destruction of public education in Pennsylvania. We are grateful to Democrats in both the House and the Senate for standing strong against vouchers.

Sadly, while the enacted budget is likely the best that can be achieved at this date, it is not a good one. While it includes bout a 5% increase in total spending, after taking inflation into account, the increase is not substantial. If not for what House Majority Leader Matt Bradford aptly called the “distraction” of the voucher issue, Governor Shapiro could and should have worked more closely with the Democrats in the legislature to reach an agreement with Senate Republicans on a better budget, one closer to the budget passed by the House a month ago. Such a budget would have:

  • provided the additional funding for basic education, special education, the Level Up program, and the remediation of toxic schools needed to meet the requirement of the Commonwealth Court decision on school funding.
  • invested more than an additional $50 million in the Whole-Home Repairs program.
  • provided more funding for subsidized child care and pre-K education.
  • excluded a cut in funds for gun violence prevention, at a time when those programs have had some positive impact in cities around the state.
  • included a long overdue increase in the minimum wage in our state.

And at this point, the General Assembly has not passed funding for Temple, Pitt, and Penn State, which means that in-state tuitions at those institutions, which is already among the highest in the country, will skyrocket.

These and many other needed public investments in higher education, —which we will detail in a more complete review of the budget in a few weeks—could have been paid for by the accumulated $13 billion surplus without raising taxes on Pennsylvanians.

So while avoiding the worst outcome, this budget fails to deliver all that Pennsylvanians need from our state government.  Democrats in the General Assembly and the House Democratic leadership did step forward this year and enacted a far better budget than we have seen in many years. But they didn’t get the help they needed from the governor to get their plans enacted against the opposition of Senate Republicans.


The Pennsylvania Policy Center creates the tools that political officials, opinion leaders, grassroots organizations, and the people of PA need to expand our vibrant democracy, secure our freedom, and seek economic justice in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Policy Center


PRESS RELEASE: Update on PA Budget Negotiations

By Press Release
July 3, 2023

For Immediate Release

Contact: Kirstin Snow,

Update on Budget Negotiations

With $13 billion in accumulated surplus and a budget from the governor that proposed modest additions to state spending on policies that have broad support, one would expect that making a budget deal would be easy.

Yet the budget deadline came and went.

House Democrats passed a budget four weeks ago with more funding for a number of programs, including education, where they added to basic education funding and special education funding, and added the popular Level Up program back into the budget. They then passed a minimum wage bill that was not perfect but would put Pennsylvania on a path to $15. Governor Shapiro embraced both plans.

Senate Republicans passed a profoundly flawed budget, at the last minute, that rejected most of the House plan. Its worst element, however, was the inclusion of a $100 million down payment on a radical plan, sponsored by extremist billionaires like Betsy Devos and Jeffrey Yass, to destroy our public school system. Then they left town.

The House Democrats had already made clear that there will be no voucher program adopted this year or for as long as they are in the House majority. (And given that their stance on all the critical issues is totally aligned with the majority in public polls, they may well be in the majority for a long time.)

So, we’re back to square one.

How did we get here?

First, negotiations started later than usual. There were new political circumstances: a Democratic House majority that did not really take power until the special elections in March, a new governor, and new leadership in the Senate. The new people, with power in their hands, had to take time to build relationships, internally and externally, and learn the ropes of the budget process.

Second, in an extraordinary display of political chutzpah, having lost the education funding case in court, the Republicans tried to twist the decision—which calls for a new, fair system of funding public schools—into a mandate to radically restructure our education system by privatizing schools.

Third, the Republicans not only misread the opinion of the courts but may have misread Governor Shapiro as well. The governor signaled his willingness to support a modest Lifeline scholarship program during his campaign and has continued to do so ever since. However, his support was contingent on funding public schools fully and fairly. When public schools are so radically underfunded, any allotment of money for vouchers takes away critical funds from these schools. And the Senate Republican budget does far less than the House Democratic budget. While the Governor has not been as clear as we’d like, we hope his unwillingness to embrace the Senate budget indicates that he’s having second thoughts about the school voucher plan. As he thinks about his political future, the Governor must be concerned that the endorsement of the Senate plan by anti-government extremists Betsy Devos and Grover Norquist reveals that Republicans see Lifeline scholarships not as a supplement to public schools, but as a foot in the door for a radical restructuring of education funding in Pennsylvania.

Fourth, it appears that many Republicans don’t understand that they lost the last election: in fact, their gubernatorial candidate lost in a landslide. They lost the House majority for the first time in over a decade. While Senate Republicans did not lose seats—mostly because that chamber remains more gerrymandered than the House—the political landscape has shifted. But Republican expectations have not shifted with them.

The Republicans can legitimately claim a role in setting funding levels in the budget. But there seems to be a faction among Senate Republicans that is taking its cues from national Republicans, who think they can hold hostage any necessary government action—whether it is a state budget or an agreement to avoid default—until they get their way, no matter how radical their proposals are. This is, sadly, a product of the belief among Republican extremists that theirs is the only legitimate governing party. That, however, is not the view of most Pennsylvanians. Democrats here in Pennsylvania are not going to embrace extremist, radical ideas in the budget process any more than President Biden allowed it in Washington.

And fifth, Senate Republicans apparently believe that any delay in the budget will be blamed on Governor Shapiro. They fail to understand that, even before his effective leadership in managing the recent I-95 repair, the governor is widely admired and is in the best possible position to wait for them to accept political reality. And the Governor surely understands that the radical intent of the Lifeline program is deeply unpopular with Democrats, not just in Pennsylvania but around the country.

The House Democrats have accepted political reality. They have enacted many of their proposals (which are, frankly, progressive) but have done so in ways that have not pushed the envelope; and on many issues, they have won Republican support. When the Senate Republicans recognize political reality as well, they will be able to strike a budget deal with the House Democrats and Governor Shapiro.


The Pennsylvania Policy Center creates the tools that political officials, opinion leaders, grassroots organizations, and the people of Pennsylvania need to expand our vibrant democracy, secure our freedom, and seek economic justice in Pennsylvania.