Amid a flurry of end-of-year legislative activity, the state House passed a raft of six Republican-backed bills that could significantly change the way Pennsylvania puts together its budget.
The proposals would largely come into play during impasses, like the ones the state has faced repeatedly in recent years.
House GOP Leader Dave Reed said they’re borne out of frustration at budgets becoming law without the revenues to back them up, among other things.
“It would just require that we actually have a budget be balanced constitutionally, as is required,” he said during floor debate.
One bill would mandate an official revenue estimate be made when lawmakers enact their spending plan for the year. If actual revenues fall short, the governor would have to freeze funds to keep spending in balance.
Another would make it harder for the governor to request extra funds after a budget has been passed.
Yet another would require reports that let the legislature keep tabs on money that goes into the state’s special funds, which aren’t tracked in the main budget.
As a whole, they would reduce the governor’s autonomy in handling state finances.
Democrats, like House Minority Appropriations Chair Joe Markosek, argued that doesn’t solve the root problem — which he said is Republicans underfunding state programs.
“Republicans should take responsibility for passing a real, balanced budget up front,” Markosek said. “When funds fall short, Republicans have to own up to their vote and find the money to fund that.”
The bills passed the House along party lines, and now face consideration in the Senate.
A spokeswoman said they’re being reviewed.