Pennsylvania Budget Process

April 24, 2015

It’s been nearly a month after Governor Wolf’s budget address and the flurry of stories has died down, but Americans for Prosperity hasn’t slowed down.

Recently, our State Director Beth Anne Mumford had an op-ed published in the Patriot-News on the impact of Wolf’s budget proposal on schools. Click here to read up on this under-reported issue. If you follow our Twitter handle (@AFPPennsylvania) or like our Facebook page, you will see a constant stream of information that tells the truth of what Governor Wolf’s budget means for Pennsylvanians.

But where is the process headed? If you know anything about the Pennsylvania budget process you probably know it is due to be passed by June 30. You probably also know that the budget isn’t always passed that day. Here’s an overview.

The June 30 budget deadline isn’t just a random date that sometimes interferes with July 4th celebrations if the budget isn’t passed on time. The Commonwealth’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. The Budget Code requires that governors present their budget proposal on the first Tuesday of February before a combined session of the General Assembly. Newly elected governors get an extra month, and are required to submit a plan on the first Tuesday of March. Once the plan is revealed, sometimes leaked in advance, there is an endless amount of commentary from legislators of both sides of the aisle, interest groups and opinion writers.

Not long after the chatter subsides, the appointed (but sometimes not approved) secretaries of each department parade before the House and Senate appropriations committees. This is mostly for show. The members of the appropriations committees ask questions, play “stump the secretary”, and either praise or criticize the plan. This lasts roughly a month. Then nothing happens, or it looks like nothing happens. Finally, you see a burst of action just weeks before the deadline.

When you think of a budget bill, don’t just think of one piece of legislation, which is often hundreds of pages in length. There are actually several different code bills that must be passed. There is always the general fund (fiscal code) bill, and if there is a change in the tax code, there will be a tax code bill. There is also an education code bill and a welfare code bill. Governor Corbett was able to claim that three of his four budgets were passed on time because the fiscal code was signed before midnight on June 30.

While it is difficult enough to get a House, Senate and Governor of the same party to agree to a budget on time, it seems impossible to find someone who believes the budget will be passed by June 30 this year. In 2009, it took then Governor Rendell, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled House and Senate 101 days to come to a spending agreement. It would seem from comments made in the press that the GOP-controlled House and Senate would have wildly differing priorities to that of Governor Wolf.

Whenever the budget is passed, AFP-Pennsylvania is committed to making sure there is no Personal Income Tax increase and that Marcellus shale drilling is not overtaxed and remains in the Commonwealth. We will also continue to promote budgetary restraint, supporting measures such as the Taxpayer Relief Act. If you don’t know what the Wolf tax-and-spend budget will cost you, you can quickly calculate the impact with our tax calculator:

The news media may have moved on from Wolf’s tax-and-spend budget proposal, but we haven’t, and you shouldn’t either.

For freedom,

Anna McCauslin
Director of Policy
Americans for Prosperity – Pennsylvania

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