Balanced PA Budget Passes House, Goes to Senate

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HARRISBURG — Franklin County legislators weren’t entirely in agreement about the 2019-20 state budget package approved by the House of Representatives this week.

The House passed a $33,997 billion spending plan Tuesday as the General Appropriations portion of the state budget. The legislation will now be taken up by the state Senate.

The General Appropriations bill passed on a 140-62 vote.

Three of Franklin County’s state legislators – Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-9), Rep. Jesse Topper (R-78) and Rep. John Hershey (R-82) – cast ‘yes’ votes for the bill.

Rep. Paul Schemel (R-90), voted ‘no’ on the bill, staying it commits the Commonwealth “to spend at a rate in excess of the rate of growth and inflation.“

The budget increases spending $596 million over 2018-19’s budget, something he said he opposes “because I made a principled commitment to keep spending in check.”

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Kauffman, however, said the state is experiencing an “extraordinary” economy that justifies the spending increase.

“I’m excited about investing in agriculture, workforce development and programs for young people with intellectual disabilities,” he said.

Schemel enclosed a chart with his budget news release comparing the growth of the state’s budget in this decade and the rise in the consumer price index.

General Fund State Spending Chart
General Fund State Spending Chart

He said it demonstrates “how far out of whack our addiction to spending is.”

“I opposed this budget proposal because I made a principled commitment to keep spending in check,” he said.

Hershey said the budget does not increase taxes or raise fees, keeps the spending increase to 1.8% and boosts the state’s Rainy Day Fund by $50 million.

Topper called the budget a “no-tax-increase state budget” that respects taxpayers, spends less than what Gov. Tom Wolf wanted and sets money aside in the Rainy Day Fund.

“Our budgeting policies have one thing in mind,” he said. “Do what’s right for taxpayers. I believe we are on the right track with this budget.”

“a pretty good win-win for Pennsylvania taxpayers.”

State Rep. Rob Kauffman

The budget was a compromise generally supported by enough Democrats to get the bill passed with a large margin, in spite of the fact that it lacked several key elements sought by Gov. Tom Wolf.

One of those elements was an increase in Pennsylvania’s $7.5 minimum wage.

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