Pennsylvania has received $ 7.3 billion in federal COVID-19 rescue assistance. The new state budget is spending $ 1 billion of this money.
While Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he intends to sign the $ 40.8 billion state budget, some Democratic lawmakers have denounced what they described as missed opportunities in the budget. .
The GOP-controlled General Assembly approved the 2021-22 spending plan on Friday night, and some Democrats voted to pass the budget. The spending plan offers more help to schools and social service programs, and the plan does not include any tax increases. Wolf has said he will sign it next week, as the new fiscal year begins on July 1.
- Pennsylvania lawmakers pass $ 40.8 billion state budget; Governor Tom Wolf says he will sign it
But Democrats have expressed dismay that most of the federal aid to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is not being used. Pennsylvania received nearly $ 7.3 billion in federal aid as part of the US bailout, but $ 1 billion is being used in the new state budget.
House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, had urged fellow lawmakers to use federal aid more in the budget. She couldn’t hold back her disappointment.
“This is just the start,” McClinton said Friday night. “No more excuses. We have money that we put in a fund, but let’s save those who need it!”
McClinton argued that some of that money could be used to help more schools in Pennsylvania.
Democratic House of Credit Speaker Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, said lawmakers need to do more than budget on time and without raising taxes.
“While there are significant targeted investments, this budget is a missed opportunity to fundamentally change the long-term trajectory of the Commonwealth,” Bradford said in a statement.
Democratic House Secretary Dan Miller D-Allegheny said GOP leaders “have gone terribly off target” with the budget.
“By making only minimal attempts to raise the Pennsylvanians, a once-in-a-generation opportunity has been largely wasted,” Miller said in a statement. “Working families, small businesses and school districts are right to ask why billions of dollars are filling legislative reserves rather than being put to work to build our future.”
Republicans, who control both houses of the General Assembly, argued that saving most of the money would be smarter than using it to increase spending that would not be sustainable.
Many recalled how former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett was ridiculed for cutting school aid after federal money to help recover from the Great Recession dried up, a factor in his failure to win a second term.
Some Republicans also wanted to guard against a possible decline in tax revenue in the years to come. House GOP leaders said they were particularly pleased with the $ 2.5 billion added to the state’s rainy day fund. By saving more money now, Republicans have argued that they are protecting themselves against future tax increases.
Republican Senator John DiSanto, R-Dauphin, said the plan represented a financially responsible approach to state spending.
“Rather than spending all of this year’s federal surplus and stimulus money as the Democrats advocate, this budget prudently anticipates the challenges of tomorrow and ensures that the Commonwealth is in a strong fiscal position to meet the projected budget deficit. next year, ”DiSanto said in a statement. “We need to be good stewards of our taxpayer’s money and address Harrisburg’s structural overspending problem.”
Senatorial Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Philadelphia, voted for the budget, although he admitted his disappointments.
“This is not the budget that I would have designed and in many ways I think it does not take full advantage of the unprecedented resources we have from a budget surplus and the US federal bailout – but it’s a process of compromise, and there are a lot of things here that I support, ”said Costa.
State Senator Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, argued that it made sense to set aside some federal money, but said GOP leaders should spend more to help those who have it. need. In a Twitter post, she called it an “epic failure to invest in Pennsylvania and the people who live here.”
Democratic House Secretary Tina Davis, D-Bucks, said the budget offered welcome support for schools, but it just didn’t go far enough.
“We were able to help some schools, but knowing that there are billions of unused surplus dollars that could help workers, businesses and taxpayers, we are far from done working,” Davis said in a statement. .
PennLive reporters Jan Murphy and Charles Thompson contributed to this report.
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