We have a budget for 2016-2017. What does it mean for schools?

The 2016-2017 PA budget is now complete. Yesterday a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the PA House and Senate approved a revenue package and Governor Wolf signed it into law. But what does it mean for our schools?

On the General Assembly Passing a Revenue Bill (HB 1198)

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Marc Stier made the following statement on the General Assembly Passing a Revenue Bill (HB 1198):

"The General Assembly finally acted today to meet its constitutional responsibility by voting to raise the $1.3 billion in revenues needed to fund the recently passed appropriations law. But while the revenue package may technically balance the budget for 2016-17, in three respects it does not solve the long term fiscal problems of Pennsylvania. 

Bad ideas under any label

We are hearing that some of the provisions in a House school code bill, HB530, are being included in a Senate-supported school code bill, HB1606. It is unclear which parts of HB530 will be included in HB1606, but we will be monitoring to determine if any of the very problematic provisions of the former bill wind up in the latter.
 
School districts in Pennsylvania contain a mix of traditional public schools and charter schools. Some local school districts want to add charters schools. Many do not.

Statement on Gov. Wolf's Decision to Allow the Appropriations Bill to Become Law

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Marc Stier made the following statement on Governor Wolf's decision to allow the appropriations bill to become law:

"Governor Wolf announced that he will let the general fund appropriation bill passed last week become law without his signature if the General Assembly does not pass a revenue bill that fully funds the spending it calls for.

"This is an unfortunate, yet reasonable, response to a difficult situation created by the unwillingness of extremists among House Republicans to agree to a revenue package.

Boom and Bust: Lessons From the Gas Patch

In 2011, the town of Towanda in Bradford County was at the epicenter of the shale drilling boom. A visitor would have been hard-pressed to find a vacant hotel room. There were waiting lines at the restaurants. The streets and roads were choked with big-rig diesels hauling the water, rigs, equipment, gravel, sand and chemicals needed to develop the gas wells. Rents doubled or tripled forcing some low-income families into homelessness.

School funding: What One Hand Gives Another Takes Away

As this dispiriting budget season ends, advocates for education could at least be grateful that the General Assembly seems poised to increase basic education funding by $200 million. This is far less than the $400 million necessary to put us on a path towards overcoming massive cuts and the most unequal education funding in the state. And it does little more than help school districts keep up with costs. But at a time when so many legislators are unwilling to find the revenues to invest in anything, it is better than nothing. 

The Emperor’s New Liquor Stores

Act 39 flew through the House of Representatives and was signed by Governor Wolf too fast for us, and many others, to object. If we had a chance, we would have pointed out, as the IFO did soon after passage, that the estimates of new revenue from expanding wine and beer sales was way too high. And we would have added that much of the $106 million that the IFO expects will be generated by Act 39 is a one-time deal. Projections of additional sales of wine and beer at the new locations have to be weighed against the loss of sales at Wine and Spirit shops and beer distributors. 

Revenue Options Real and Fake: A Minimum Wage Increase and Gaming Expansion

Ten years ago was the last time Pennsylvania raised the minimum wage in advance of the federal government doing so. In those ten years, inflation has reduced the value of the minimum wage to a poverty wage. That’s why it’s time to raise it again, ultimately to $15 an hour, but immediately to $10.10.

Some things are worse than a late budget.

As the June 30th deadline looms, we have little more than rumors about what kind of Pennsylvania budget might be enacted by the General Assembly for 2016-17. But while some may find optimism in talk of getting the budget done, the rumors we are hearing about the details of the budget in the works are extremely worrisome.

Why Philly Needs the Sugary Drink Tax

As we move closer to a City Council vote on the sugary drink tax proposal, I want to offer some final thoughts about the idea and correct some misapprehensions about it:

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