A Brief Budget Update

(July 7, 2023) Since we wrote about the state budget last week, there has been some progress. On Wednesday, July 5, the PA House of Representatives approved HB 611 with no changes since it was last amended by the Senate. Even though the budget has now been approved by both houses of the General Assembly, that does not mean that this is the final version of the budget. The bill still needs to be signed by Gov. Shapiro, of course, but also by the Senate President Pro Tempore – Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland). The Senate is not scheduled to reconvene until September 18, and the budget may still be tied up in negotiations surrounding school vouchers.

The main point of discussion in last week’s blog was the Lifeline Scholarship Program, for which Governor Shapiro and Senate Republicans had expressed support. Democratic leadership had previously expressed that they would not approve the budget if it included the $100 million allocation for this program. As of now, HB 611 still includes funding for the Lifeline Scholarship Program (though the line item refers to it as PASS Scholarships), but in order to allow the budget to pass in the House, Gov. Shapiro has stated that he will issue a line-item veto for the program.

While we can’t yet count on this being the final version of the 2023-2024 budget, we can still take a look at how things stand. Back in March, we offered our perspective on Gov. Shapiro’s budget proposal. How does the current version of the budget fund some of the key areas that AFC tracks?

Child Nutrition

The current allocation for school food services is actually slightly higher than Gov. Shapiro’s original ask, increasing the funds from the last fiscal year by $46.5 million. Gov. Shapiro had proposed his increase to continue providing universal free breakfast and expand free lunch for PA students. The inclusion of universal free breakfast would be a huge win for nutrition advocates, including Allies for Children. More importantly, this would ensure every public school student in the Commonwealth is fueled up and ready to learn through free, nutritious breakfast. To learn more about this, check out this past Bold Voices Blog.

Children’s Health Insurance

For the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), there is a $7.8 million decrease, which seems to be due to fluctuations in federal funding. Allies for Children also continues to monitor the impact of the Medicaid Unwinding on children and families in the Commonwealth.

Early Learning and Thriving PA

AFC is part of several campaigns with Early Learning PA (ELPA) and Thriving PA, many of which have released statements in response to the current state of the budget. These statements have been collected here if you would like to read more about the potential impacts this budget may have on programs such as Pre-K Counts and Early Intervention. Below, please find a summary of some of these funding areas (from ELPA) as currently detailed in the budget:

  • An increase of $15.4 million for the Early Intervention Part C (infants and toddlers) program through the Department of Human Services.
  • An increase of $10.4 million for the Early Intervention Part B (age-three-to-five) program through the Department of Education.
  • Level funding for evidence-based home visiting in the Community-Based Family Center line items.
  • An increase in funding of $25,000 for the Nurse-Family Partnership line item, which is a technical adjustment from previously enhanced federal matching funds.
  • Increase of $103,747,000 to maintain the status quo in the child care subsidy program.
  • Level funding for state Pre-K Counts.
  • Head Start’s state program would also receive level funding.
  • Basic education funding would receive a $567 million increase.
  • Special Education would receive a funding increase of $50 million.
  • A $14 million increase in funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, and an additional $9.45 million increase for CTE Equipment Grants.
  • $125 million in school safety and environmental improvement grants.
  • Unfortunately, this budget does not include any funding for the BOOST Grant Program.
Child Welfare
  • Child welfare would receive an additional $10.2 million reflecting the proposed increase contained in the governor’s budget address.
Mental Health
  • $20 million to increase base funding for counties to provide critical mental health services and address deepening workforce shortages.
  • This version of the budget does not include the school-based mental health block grants that were in Gov. Shapiro’s proposal.

Please keep an eye out for more updates on and analysis of the 2023-2024 state budget as things progress. You can also check out this press release from Gov. Shapiro’s office. We will be sure to keep you informed.

Laura Condon, Allies for Children Project Coordinator