Pennsylvania budget negotiations take a holiday |  News, Sports, Jobs

Pennsylvania budget negotiations take a holiday | News, Sports, Jobs

Pennsylvania budget negotiations take a holiday |  News, Sports, Jobs

FILE – Shown is the Pennsylvania state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Feb. 6, 2024. The Pennsylvania House speaker said Monday, March 18, 2024 she wants to let qualified residents register at polling places on the day of elections and to permit two weeks of advanced voting for everyone. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)

(The Center Square) – The state capitol fell quiet Wednesday after lawmakers left town for the Fourth of July, intent on hammering out a budget deal over the weekend – maybe.

The holiday break means the plan could be a week or more overdue. Still, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, said discussions remain “engaged,” “productive” and “cordial.”

“But I will also say that details matter, words on paper matter, and as we always say, unless everything’s agreed to, nothing’s agreed to,” he said.

The tongue-in-cheek remark rings true every budget season, though the contention of last year’s talks seems absent, for now.

“One thing we all learned a little bit last year, myself included, is to try to figure out a better way to navigate this process,” Pittman said. “We are really committed to the notion that divided government shouldn’t be dysfunctional government.”

Education priorities elude compromise, Pittman said. As does human services spending. In the former, a constitutional mandate to equalize school district funding looms large over negotiations.

A revised formula passed the House in June, though it has yet to be considered in the Senate. Pittman said “some hard realities are setting in” about the new calculations.

“As I’ve said before, there are 500 school districts in this commonwealth,” he said. “Every single one of them has a different sense of what is fair.”

Critics of the revised formula say it hurts nearly two-thirds of school districts and should be scrapped entirely. Supporters praise the multi-billion dollar plan as long overdue.

In the end, it will be up to House Democratic leaders, Senate Republican leaders and Gov. Josh Shapiro to meet in the middle. Pittman said he is confident that this could still happen before the lapse impacts state services.

The House gaveled out until Friday at 3 pm, while the Senate is not scheduled to reconvene until 3 pm Saturday.

In the meantime, Pittman said, staffers will work “around the clock” to finalize a deal, and the chamber can be ready to come back “at a moment’s notice.”

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