Harrisburg, Pa., August 30, 2023 — The Pennsylvania Senate reconvened today and passed legislation necessary to complete parts of the long-overdue state budget. Returning to session three weeks earlier than scheduled, the Senate approved fiscal code legislation that expands educational options for our neediest kids by a bipartisan vote of 28-19.
Notably, the legislation includes Lifeline Scholarships, referred to as the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Program, and the expansion of Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit—both policies Gov. Josh Shapiro campaigned on. Meanwhile, several House Democrat priorities, including the distribution of $100 million in Level Up funding for school districts, $50 million for Whole Home Repairs, new student-teacher stipends, and numerous other expenditures, remain pending and will not receive funds unless and until House leaders reconvene and come to an agreement on the overall budget.
“The Senate took a necessary step to move forward on completing a budget. This action shows there is bipartisan support for a deal that delivers for students and taxpayers,” said Nathan Benefield, senior vice president at the Commonwealth Foundation. “The onus now lies with House Democrats and Shapiro—the final roadblocks to finalizing the state budget.”
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives must agree to fiscal code legislation before the state budget is complete. The House has been in recess since July 11 and isn’t scheduled to return until September 26. The Commonwealth Foundation urges the House to get back to work, set aside political gamesmanship, and reconvene to end the budget impasse.
“The intransigence of House Democrats, particularly Leader Matt Bradford, threatens not only scholarships for our most needy students, but funding for all the programs that still need legislation,” said Benefield, further emphasizing, “Students are coming back from summer vacation, and it’s time for House Democratic leadership to get back to work.”
Previously, House Democrat leadership worked to prevent a vote on the fiscal code over objections to the Lifeline Scholarship/PASS Program. However, there is bipartisan support for passing the educational choice initiative. Shapiro also recently reiterated his support for the proposal, calling it “unfinished business” and noting that the program doesn’t take any money from public schools.
July 2023 polling shows 73 percent of voters support scholarship programs like Lifeline Scholarships/PASS. Moreover, 65 percent say Shapiro should honor the deal he made and fund scholarships for children attending the state’s worst-performing schools.
The Commonwealth Foundation turns free-market ideas into public policies, fostering prosperity for all Pennsylvanians.