HARRISBURG, Pa. – A wide-raging coalition of organizations took to the Capitol rotunda on Monday to warn of possible cuts if legislators don’t finalize Pennsylvania’s budget in the next few days.
The spending plan went into effect on July 1, and the state Senate passed a bipartisan measure to pay for it more than a month ago. But the House has yet to vote on a revenue bill.
According to Jeff Garis, outreach and engagement director at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, without a revenue bill in place, the state’s general fund will run out of money on the 15th, potentially forcing across-the-board cuts of up to 12 percent to a host of essential programs.
“State funding for higher education, for all public education, pre-K programs,” he says. “Human services ranging from behavioral health services to services for seniors.”
The Republican leadership of the House says it wants to find a way to balance the budget without raising additional revenue.
But Garis points out that the plan they’re talking about would divert money from critical off-budget items such as emergency services, environmental cleanups, public transportation, and highway and bridge maintenance.
“They want to raid all of these funds, use it to patch up the part of the budget where there’s this deficit, and then they want to say that they’ve passed a reasonable and balanced funding plan,” he adds.
He says a long history of cutting programs and services instead of raising new revenue has led to years of budget deficits.
Monday was the first day the Legislature was in session since early July, and Garis says the clock is ticking.
“The House took a two-month vacation this summer,” he laments. “It’s time for them to get back to work, to do their jobs, and they need to pass a responsible funding plan that will balance the state’s budget.”
Garis adds that failure to pass a revue bill by Friday’s deadline could lead to a billion dollars in cuts to education funding for this school year.