Election Results Shouldn’t Detract Attention From Real Reforms

Pennsylvania’s primary election results are sure to command a lot of attention this week, as analysts attempt to explain what the outcomes mean for November.

One thing is certain: Many new people will be arriving in Harrisburg next year, and a lot could change. Yet, there's still much to accomplish this legislative session. The legislature will need to pass a balanced budget and may further advance transformative policies that could significantly reduce poverty and improve Pennsylvania’s economy long after today’s lawmakers leave office.

Below is a list of reforms that have either advanced or are positioned to advance in the General Assembly:

School Choice

  • Senate Bill 2: Establishes Education Savings Accounts for students in underperforming schools.
  • House Bill 2228: Creates Education Savings Accounts for students with special needs.
  • House Bill 237: Expands the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) by $70 million and $30 million respectively.

State Budget Reform

  • House Bill 110: Taxpayer Protection Act – Caps spending increases to the rate of inflation + population growth.
  • Senate Bill 173: Taxpayer Protection Act – Caps spending increases to the rate of inflation + population or personal income growth.
  • House Bill 1843: Makes the commonwealth’s finances more transparent and accessible to all Pennsylvanians by requiring the posting of budget documents, making the Treasury’s Transparency Portal permanent, and creating an online ledger of expenses.
  • House Bill 1940: Closes the loophole allowing the governor to let an unbalanced budget become law. If the governor still refuses to balance the budget, the secretary of the budget would be charged with bringing expenses in line with revenues.
  • House Bill 1942: Ensures the governor’s administration balances the budget during the fiscal year in the event of a revenue shortfall.
  • House Bill 1943: Requires state agencies to produce quarterly reports for each shadow budget fund including grants and subsidies allocated but not reflected in the commonwealth’s accounting system.

Welfare Reform

  • Senate Bill 6: Limits government benefits available to criminals, increases fraud penalties, and prohibits the purchase of tobacco and alcohol with benefits.
  • House Bill 2138: Promotes work and community engagement among Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • House Bill 1659: Prohibits state government from requesting waivers from Food Stamp work requirements.

Criminal Justice Reform

  • Senate Bill 1071: Provides for alternatives to incarceration to help reduce the prison population—and costs to taxpayers—without jeopardizing public safety
  • Senate Bill 1070: Establishes the County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee to advise on best probation practices. The money saved from SB 1071’s reforms would be reinvested to study and implement evidence-based probation practices.
  • House Bill 1491: Automatically limits access to certain criminal history records and requires a petition to seal other records for qualifying offenses if a person has been free from a conviction for a period of 10 years.

Regulatory Reform

  • Senate Bill 561: Requires the General Assembly to approve any regulation that imposes a significant cost ($1 million or more) on the government or private sector.
  • House Bill 1959: Creates an online tracking system for state permits to provide more predictability to entrepreneurs who spend too much time and resources navigating the permitting process.
  • House Bill 1792: Allows the General Assembly to initiate the repeal of burdensome and outdated regulations.
  • House Bill 209: Establishes the Independent Office of the Repealer to review regulations and recommend what regulations should be eliminated or modified.
  • House Bill 1237: Requires the General Assembly to approve any regulation that imposes a cost of $1 million or more a year.

Lawmakers have advanced major reforms that embrace personal responsibility, fairness, and free enterprise, but we still have a long way to go. Improving our criminal justice system, our budget process, our regulatory system and encouraging work in our welfare system will continue Pennsylvania’s transformation into a state of opportunity for all.