HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania has passed a spending plan through June 2021 that does not raise taxes, avoids major cuts to state programs and uses about $1.3 billion in federal coronavirus …
HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania has passed a spending plan through June 2021 that does not raise taxes, avoids major cuts to state programs and uses about $1.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief toward the state payroll.
Using its remaining CARES Act funding to balance the books means that PA won’t be distributing that money to the state’s struggling restaurant and hospitality industry, despite pleas from that sector for financial help.
House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor (PA-94) said that the choice to allocate CARES Act money toward the state rather than toward businesses was necessary to avoid increasing taxes and allowing PA’s publicly funded institutions, like education, to continue through June.
“This is a responsible budget that takes into account the fiscal realities that Pennsylvania is facing,” said Saylor. “With this budget, we can keep our schools and core government functions operating while respecting taxpayers by reducing other expenditures… Should Congress and the president decide to send additional federal funds to Pennsylvania, we pledge to work expeditiously to drive out additional aid to Pennsylvanians struggling from the COVID-19 pandemic, including our small business owners.”
The two budget bills, signed by Wolf, passed 104-97 in the House and 31-18 in the Senate.
Upon signing the bill, Gov. Tom Wolf released a brief statement that this budget for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year “prioritizes public education in the commonwealth.”
However, Democrats in the General Assembly have joined business owners in criticizing the choice not to put the stimulus money directly into the economy.
“It’s truly shameful that when we have $1.3 billion in federal CARES Act money available, they have chosen to turn their backs on the workers and businesses. I can take it even further—not a single penny has been allocated for mental health, and the restrictions and closures are taking their toll on everyone,” Rep. Ed Neilson (PA-174) said.
According to reporting from the Morning Call, an unnamed state representative provided the following breakdown of where that $1.3 billion will go: state corrections institutions, $968 million; state police general government operations, $226 million; corrections medical care, $95 million; youth development centers, $30 million; state health care centers, $10 million; and health general government operations, $4 million.
While the federal government has said that the state can’t use COVID-19 relief to replace lost revenue, it does give “broad discretion” to use the funding toward payroll costs for state employees whose “services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID- 9 public health emergency.”
“The state legislature needs to provide an industry bailout and other meaningful measures to provide much-needed funds and lifelines to help our struggling establishments pay their rent, pay their mortgages, pay their utilities and most importantly, to keep and pay their employees,” PA Licensed Beverage & Tavern Association President Tom Tyle said at a recent rally in Harrisburg. “The state is still sitting on 1.3 billion dollars in federal CARES money. We want our share of those federal dollars.”