pennsylvania budget bungle

House Democrats’ Budget Bungle Leaves Programs Without Funding

Harrisburg, Pa., July 27, 2023 – More than a dozen notable Pennsylvania budget line-items risk going unfunded following Democrats’ unwillingness to uphold the bipartisan deal agreed to by Gov. Josh Shapiro and the Senate on Lifeline/PASS Scholarships. 

While the general appropriations bill (HB 611), as amended by the Senate to reflect the bipartisan budget compromise Senate leaders reached in good faith with Gov. Shapiro, was passed by both chambers, a general appropriations bill alone does not constitute a budget. A fiscal code bill, which dictates how certain spending in the general appropriations bill is implemented, must also pass to ensure funding for programs, including those supported by House Democrats. 

Without the timely passage of a properly drafted fiscal code bill, several key budget items won’t be implemented, even if the governor signs the general appropriations bill into law. To get the needed fiscal code bill onto the governor’s desk, the original bipartisan compromise will have to be restored, including the agreed upon Lifeline/PASS Scholarships in that fiscal code bill. As the budget impasse drags on, House Democrats have adjourned for a summer break and show no signs of a willingness to find a solution before they are set to reconvene on September 26. 

“The refusal of House Democrats to come together to fully implement the governor’s bipartisan budget compromise with Senate leaders jeopardizes not only Lifeline Scholarships and countless children’s futures, but even their own top spending priorities,” said Stephen Bloom, vice president at the Commonwealth Foundation. “We urge Gov. Shapiro to demand—and House Majority Leader Matt Bradford to promptly call for—a vote on a comprehensive fiscal code bill that properly implements all components of the bipartisan budget agreement, both the Democratic and Republican priorities.” 

Along with Lifeline/PASS Scholarships, other budget items at risk include: 

  • Basic Education Funding increase ($550 million)
  • Level Up Funding ($100 million)
  • Hospital and Healthsystem Emergency Relief ($50 million) 
  • Whole Home Repairs Program ($50 million)
  • Universal free breakfast for all school students ($46.5 million)
  • Historically Disadvantaged Business Program ($20 million)
  • Student Teacher Stipends ($10 million)
  • Funding for Indigent Defense ($7.5 million)
  • Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission ($5.35 million)
  • Schools to Work Program ($3.5 million)
  • Foundations in Industry Grants ($3 million)
  • Parent Pathways to support parents at postsecondary institutions ($1.66 million)

While Gov. Shapiro has threatened to line-item veto Lifeline/PASS Scholarship funding, citing the absence of necessary implementation language, all the above items require similar implementation language before they can be funded. A comprehensive fiscal code bill will resolve all those issues.

“By advancing a comprehensive fiscal code that secures funding for these programs and includes Lifeline Scholarships, House Democrats can end the budget impasse and fulfill their commitments to constituents,” said Bloom. “Overall, the bipartisan budget deal with the necessary fiscal code legislation represents a positive step forward for the commonwealth, and our elected officials should come together to enact it.” 

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Erik Telford at [email protected] or call (202) 280-8716.


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