After A Week Of 'Passions,’ Pennsylvania’s Budget Is Finished

Jun 29, 2019

The state budget is officially done.

 

Lawmakers passed all the major parts to the governor Friday, two days ahead of the end-of-fiscal-year deadline. Governor Tom Wolf has now committed to signing all the components immediately—except one.

 

The budget package has a number of things Wolf wanted.

 

There’s a significant boost for education, plus money for libraries, a transfer to the rainy day fund, and support for domestic violence victims, farmers, child welfare, and intellectual disability programs.

 

But Wolf also had to make compromises with the GOP-controlled legislature.

 

The most significant came when he signed a bill repealing a cash assistance program he and other Democrats support. He called it a Hobson’s choice.

 

“If I veto the whole thing, we don’t get the tens of millions of dollars for hospitals that serve people in need,” he said. “I’m sorry that that was the bad choice I have to make.”

 

Wolf still hasn’t signed a bill providing $90 million to counties for voting machine improvements. He specifically asked the legislature for that money, but he doesn’t want a provision that Republicans added alongside it: a contentious election code change that would ban automatic straight-party voting.

 

“The bills are coming to my desk and I will make the decision in due course,” Wolf said.

 

Budget negotiations turned tumultuous at times—with the Senate once breaking out into a shouting match on the floor.

 

Wolf maintains that overall, he considers this deal a success.

 

“You ever watch the British Parliament?” he asked reporters. “This is what a democracy is. You have deeply held ideas and passions and you express them openly, and then you get something done. That’s what we’ve done here, and I applaud everybody in both the Senate and the House for doing that.”

 

Wolf and other Democrats say they still intend to push the priorities they didn’t get into the budget this year—in particular, an increase to the minimum wage.

 

Lawmakers plan to return to the Capitol in the fall.