Rep. Dave Hickernell (R-Lancaster/Dauphin) and Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) today began the process of introducing legislation that would guarantee all Pennsylvania schools would continue to be funded at the previous fiscal year’s amount if a new appropriation is not enacted by Aug. 15 of a given year.
Hickernell cited the need for this legislation based on his experience involving the protracted education funding impasse that delayed finalization of the 2003-04 state budget until late December and resulted in the state missing two scheduled subsidy payments to the then 501 school districts in the Commonwealth.
“While my colleagues and I are all working to meet the June 30 budget deadline, history has shown that intractable positions can result in costly delays,” Hickernell said.
“I saw firsthand what happened to my school districts when former Gov. Rendell held out for his tax hikes using schools as political leverage. Given Gov. Tom Wolf’s most recent statements about his unwillingness to compromise on his request for $4.7 billion in new taxes, I think it’s only prudent that we enact legislation to ensure our children’s schools are funded without interruption in the event of a stalemate.”
Hickernell noted that in the 2003-04 legislative session, similar legislation was passed by the House of Representatives and Senate reflecting a bipartisan vote, however it was vetoed by then-Gov. Rendell, who refused to sign into law an appropriation for basic education until December.
“I am hopeful that Gov. Wolf will not put partisan politics above the continual funding of education should this legislation reach his desk,” said Hickernell.
Sen. Ryan Aument, (R-Lancaster), will be introducing an identical measure in the state Senate.
“The only budget item the Pennsylvania Constitution requires us to fund is education,” Aument said. “We can have a debate about Mr. Wolf’s tax hikes and education funding level requests, but while that happens our schools should continue to be funded without interruption.”
Hickernell and Aument’s legislation would establish the Emergency Basic Education Subsidy Fund, which would be a separate fund in the state treasury.
In the event of a future budget stalemate, existing revenue in the State Treasury would be deposited into that fund and would be used exclusively to meet scheduled state basic education subsidy payments.
Hickernell and Aument noted that, “This legislation is not about keeping schools level funded – it’s about preserving their existing state appropriations while a debate on future funding occurs if there is a delay in meeting the June 30 budget deadline.”