House Democrats: state budget full of missed opportunities

HARRISBURG, June 25 – House Democratic leaders said today’s passage of the 2021-22 state budget bill is a missed opportunity to help students, workers, businesses and every Pennsylvanian truly bounce back from COVID-19 and build a better future.

“It’s always good to prevent tax hikes on working families, and we did manage to get more money to schools, seniors, violence prevention, and roads and bridges, but that’s just not enough,” House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware said. “There are billions of dollars in surplus money that belongs to the people and should have been used to help fairly fund every school and maybe even cut property taxes for homeowners. I am determined to keep fighting to invest this funding into families across the commonwealth.”

“While this budget represents incremental steps forward on good funding initiatives, we can’t ignore the fact that it also represents a tremendous disservice to millions of Pennsylvanians who could’ve benefited from investing more of our over-$10 billion surplus to jumpstart our state,” House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris, Phila., said. “Make no mistake, there was more good to be done in this budget. While some will call this historic education funding, we don’t need historic, we need transformative funding. Rather than hide this surplus in the Rainy Day Fund, we should’ve used it to help our school districts where it’s already been pouring for far too long.”

“While there are some important targeted investments, this budget is a missed opportunity to fundamentally change the long-term trajectory of the commonwealth,” House Democratic Appropriations Chair Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, said. "In a year when our rebounding economy delivered a $3 billion surplus and on top of more than $7 billion in American Rescue Plan money to help workers, businesses, schools, and so many more, it’s not enough to just say we passed a budget on time and with no tax increases. The fight to implement the fair funding formula for our schools and use rescue dollars for their intended purposes must continue.”

Instead of rebuilding our infrastructure, supporting our workers, or correcting historic wrongs in education, the majority party woefully missed the mark with this year's budget,” House Democratic Secretary Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, said. “By making only minimal attempts to lift up Pennsylvanians, a once-in a-generation opportunity has been largely squandered. Working families, small businesses and school districts are right to question why billions of dollars are filling legislative reserves rather than being put to work building our future. An expected roaring engine has been left to run on fumes.”

“We were able to help some schools but knowing there are billions of surplus dollars going unused that could help workers, businesses and taxpayers means we are far from done working,” House Democratic Secretary Tina Davis, D-Bucks, said. “We’re going to keep up the fight to make sure these dollars go where they’ll help the most people.”

"Enacting the Level Up funding that House Democrats fought for is a massive win for schools, students and taxpayers,” House Democratic Administrator Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, said. “This program will send $100 million to the 100 poorest school districts in the commonwealth, helping urban and rural districts alike. We can use this program in the future to better fund our poorest school districts – this is a major win.”

“The important thing is that we work to stabilize our schools, our businesses and our communities,” House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, said. “This budget is a first step, and I am committed to continuing on to expand broadband access, support our hospitals and nursing homes, and generate economic opportunity. Pennsylvania needs those investments now.”

The lawmakers outlined priorities they will continue working to achieve through newly introduced legislation this year, including helping industries that could not move to remote operations during the pandemic, creating a Paid Sick Leave program for workers that doesn’t hurt small businesses, raising pay for healthcare workers, encouraging more students to enter the healthcare field, expanding access to broadband internet, and reducing property taxes.