General Appropriations Bill Becomes Law
From PA Chamber of Business & Industry
Last Sunday, Gov. Tom Wolf had a press conference announcing that he was going to let the General Appropriations bill that the General Assembly had sent him on June 30 become law without his signature. While Act 16A of 2016 was officially enacted at midnight on July 12, what had yet to be resolved was a plan on how to pay for all of it. This was the goal of lawmakers in the days that followed. By the early evening on Wednesday, July 13, the House voted 116-75 and the Senate voted 28-22 in favor of a conference committee report on H.B. 1198, the Tax Code Bill that enacted new revenue-generators to fund additional spending for the 2016-17 Fiscal Year. Shortly after the legislation made its way to the governor’s desk, he promptly signed it into law, saying in a statement: “Today’s passage of a revenue package means that we avoid another lengthy impasse, our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the commonwealth’s structural budget deficit.”
Following the governor’s action, the PA Chamber issued a statement expressing concern that increased spending was agreed to before the enactment of public pension reform legislation, which remains the state’s No. 1 cost-driver. PA Chamber President Gene Barr also voiced apprehension about the decision to cap the vendor’s allowance, which helps retailers recoup the costs associated with collecting the sales tax on behalf of the state. The statement also spoke to several matters related to education policy. “While we applaud the expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, additional education reforms need to be part of the conversation – including changes to the ineffective “last in, first out” teacher seniority rules and measures that aim to offer every child a high quality education,” PA Chamber President Gene Barr stated. “We urge lawmakers to tackle these critical issues when they return to session in the fall and finalize a long-term, comprehensive pension reform plan that shifts a substantial amount of the risk of increasing pension obligations away from Pennsylvania taxpayers.”
House and Senate lawmakers are scheduled to remain in their districts for the remainder of the summer, with the House scheduled to reconvene on Monday, Sept. 19 and the Senate on Monday, Sept. 26.