Jul. 01, 2022 / Press Release

Capitol Report
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Finishing the Budget; Hard Look at Schools

In recent weeks, the General Assembly has been laboring on the 2022-23 state budget. I will release details once the spending blueprint becomes final.

While projections for the current fiscal year show a healthy surplus, budget deficits are forecast in the near term: a $1.9 billion shortfall in 2023-24, $2 billion in 2024-25, $1.8 billion in 2025-26, and $1.7 billion in 2026-27. And those numbers may grow if the economy slides into a sustained recession.

Obviously, beefing up the state’s Rainy Day Fund and paying down debt this cycle will help the Commonwealth better ride out those expected tough years and avoid tax hikes.

One of the big state budget battlegrounds, as every year, surrounds educational funding. A few facts to keep in mind:
  •   As of the 2020-21 academic year, total spending on Pennsylvania public schools from all sources (state, local, federal) rolled in at more than $33.6 billion−a 32 percent jump since 2013. State spending alone accounts for $13.32 billion (close to 40 percent) of that amount and has climbed 40 percent since 2013, even though school district enrollment fell 7 percent during that span.
  •   Per-student spending for district schools stands at $19,919−almost $500,000 for a classroom of 25 students and up 33.9 percent since 2013. That ranks Pennsylvania eighth in total per-student funding, which is almost $4,000 more than the national average.
  •   When it comes to just the level of school property tax dollars contributed (roughly $11 billion), we place a whopping seventh in local per-student funding.
  •   Collectively, Pennsylvania school districts were stockpiling $5.29 billion in reserve funds as of 2020-21, up from $4.8 billion the previous year and a 32.7 percent boost since 2013.
  •   Almost half of the Commonwealth’s 500 school districts—239—have reserve funds that exceed 20 percent of their spending, a level flagged by former state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, as unnecessary. In contrast, the state’s Rainy Day Fund contained a mere 7 percent of the Commonwealth’s budget in 2021–22.
  •   In addition, Pennsylvania public schools still have $5.46 billion in unspent federal pandemic aid.
  •   Despite all our spending on public schools, student performance still lags—with 78 percent of Pennsylvania eighth-grade students not proficient in math and 47 percent not proficient in language arts. A report issued earlier this year by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office found “little or no correlation between current expenditures per student and the share of students that score proficient or above on standardized tests.”
Stambaugh Bill Encouraging Online Filing of Campaign Finance Reports Passes House

The House this week unanimously passed my legislation, House Bill 711, that encourages all candidates for office and political action committees to file campaign finance reports with the Department of State electronically.

While campaign finance reports can already be filed electronically, we need more candidates and PACs to take advantage of this common-sense option to increase transparency and accountability. E-filing also streamlines operations, removes logjams during peak filing times, and ensures information gets posted in a timely manner.

House Bill 711 goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Expanding Tools to Prevent Overdose Deaths

The state House recently approved House Bill 2527 that expands “Good Samaritan” protections for new opioid overdose reversal drugs in advance of their anticipated approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In 2014, the General Assembly passed Act 139, providing immunity to those who administer naloxone, commonly known by its trade name, Narcan. During a four-year period ending in January 2022, the PA Department of Health reports more than 67,000 doses of Narcan were administered by emergency services personnel with tens of thousands more given by others. This broad distribution no doubt saved countless lives.

The measure now moves to the Senate.
Happy Independence Day!!

If you are going to set off fireworks over the July 4 holiday weekend, be smart, be careful, and be considerate of your neighbors as well as pets. The Office of the State Fire Commissioner offers the following tips:  

  •   Never allow children to play with fireworks, even sparklers.
  •   Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  •   Never pick up or try to relight fireworks that have not fully ignited.
  •   Never use fireworks after consuming alcohol or other substances that impair judgement or the ability to act rapidly.

If you choose to use fireworks, only allow adults to light one at a time then quickly back away. Keep a bucket of water or garden hose handy in case of fire, and fully douse burned fireworks in water before picking them up or throwing them away.

If you are traveling, check out www.511pa.com. Free and available 24 hours a day, the site provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras. 511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.

PennDOT driver license service centers will be closed on Saturday, July 2, and Monday, July 4. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications, and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.pa.gov.

Have a safe and happy July Fourth!
Fish for Free Monday!

On July 4, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will host a Fish for Free day to allow anyone (resident or non-resident) to legally fish on all Pennsylvania waterways. No license is required, but all other fishing regulations still apply. This provides a great way to expose the next generation of anglers to the outdoors! Find more information here.