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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Return For June With Big Agenda, Sharp Differences

Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania state lawmakers are returning to session Monday with a big June agenda and sharp differences over the future of the state's finances, schools, energy sector and election procedures.

With four weeks to wrap up their work for an on-time budget, there will be lots of distractions.

The state has some good fiscal news: a huge surplus since tax collections rebounded far better than expected from the pandemic's impact. Meanwhile, sitting in a state bank account is $7.3 billion of federal money from the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed in March.

Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said the Republican-controlled Senate's focus is wrapping up the budget, as well as funding for public and private education, broadband and transportation. Election legislation is also a top priority in June, but deep partisan differences make its passage iffy.

The surplus has put aside Gov. Tom Wolf's talk of a broad overhaul of the personal income tax.

However, Wolf, a Democrat, still wants a $1.3 billion boost to public school aid, about a 20% increase. That would ensure that Pennsylvania begins using its five-year-old school-funding formula in meaningful way for the first time.

The formula, in part, was meant to help boost aid to the poorest school districts, many of which serve big populations of African American and Latino children.