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Pennsylvania state budget talks continue amid partisan tensions

The state Capitol building in Harrisburg on March 24, 2023.
Jeremy Long
The state Capitol building in Harrisburg on March 24, 2023.

As the June 30 deadline for the state budget draws near, tensions are brewing in the Capitol.

After a week off, the Republican-controlled Senate returned on June 20 to work on the budget and pass spending bills. Negotiations have led to some progress and senators are working toward a solution to the disagreements, according to Kate Flessner, spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus.

“Discussions continue to take place as we work to complete a budget that is in the best interest of the taxpayer. The Senate Republican Caucus is committed to ensuring the budget for the upcoming fiscal year is a responsible spending plan that will help put us on a path to strengthen Pennsylvania now and in future years,” Flessner wrote in an email.

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In an interview with WCCS in Indiana, Pennsylvania,, Sen. Joe Pittman, R- Indiana, says the budget could be done by June 30, if not a few days past. But, he points the finger for the delay at House Democrats.

“There’s really a deep divide, not so much between the Senate and the Governor, but frankly, the House Democrats, you know, the House passed a budget that spent $2 billion more than even Governor Shapiro proposed. And so we have a situation where the governor and his own party in the house don’t appear to be in sync on what we should consider as far as spending number in the budget,” Pittman told the station.

Pittman said the biggest overall issue is the “point of view of where we are financially.

“It is very true that we have a fund balance right now we have a Rainy Day fund. But those are one time dollars. And a lot of the demands that are being put on us for more spending are recurring expenditures,” said Pittman.

Republican House leader Rep. Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster says his caucus isn’t happy with where things stand.

“We are ready to have a serious discussion about the budget. I am tired of them governing towards the next election and I, they must begin governing the commonwealth. That is the role that they have been handed, even though it’s only a one seat majority,” said Cutler.

Democratic lawmakers have been adamant n their efforts to fund education.

House Appropriations Chair Rep. Jordan Harris, D- Philadelphia, is a former educator who sees funding and additional resources for schools as a necessity.

“There’s still a lot of kids who are going to schools that are not giving them quality, but not only is not giving them quality, there are schools that are making them sick, which is why we put in $250 million for school facilities,” said Harris.

Budget talks are slated to restart on Monday.