Statement on Pennsylvania Budget

The Public Interest Law Center praises Governor Wolf for approving funding that will keep schools open and social service programs for the needy operating while the legislature struggles to come up with an acceptable budget.

We call on the House to pass the full budget approved by the Senate in SB 1073, which would provide $350 million in new money for schools instead of the $95 million in hidden school funding reductions vetoed by the Governor today.

Our schools need stable and predictable funding in order to provide the teachers and support services our students deserve. Yet four years after the Corbett budget cuts, many districts still have not seen their funding restored. Our state also needs a balanced budget, with adequate revenues to pay for the services budgeted, not one based on gimmicks which leads to Wall Street downgrading Pennsylvania’s credit ratings and increasing its borrowing costs. The budget framework—agreed to by House leaders before they then refused to allow it to come to a vote—would accomplish those goals.

We call on the House to come back, approve SB 1073’s $30.6 billion budget, and then vote for the revenues necessary to fund it, either through new taxes, by closing existing loopholes, or a combination of both. If the pension reforms approved by the Republican-controlled Senate are not satisfactory to House Republicans, the answer is to negotiate, rather than jeopardizing the health of the Commonwealth. All or nothing tactics, which inadequately fund our schools, serve no one, especially those who are the future of our Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania’s constitution requires the legislature to support a thorough and efficient system of public schools. Current levels of funding completely abdicate that responsibility. Federal data shows Pennsylvania has the most unequal funding in the nation, and those disparities only climb. Those disparities largely arise because state appropriations for schools are among the smallest in the country compared to local funding, a problem that the legislature has only exacerbated. We call on the legislature to begin the process of finding the revenues necessary to meet its constitutional duty to adequately support the Commonwealth’s schools. Our children depend on it.