State budget passes, on Rendell’s desk; unknowns remain
To the surprise of all pundits and observers, the legislators in Harrisburg actually passed the state budget last night, June 30. The House and Senate kicked the budget to Gov. Rendell, who is due to sign it this week.
On the face of it, education advocates should be somewhat relieved with the fact that funding for education–which is going up by $250 million this fiscal year–is one of the few areas of the state budget that saw increases.
However, there are many variables that have been left unresolved in this state budget. The largest of these unknowns is the budget’s reliance upon $850 million from the Federal government for Medicaid funding. Though Rendell and a brigade of governors went to D.C. yesterday to plead for this funding, there is no guarantee that the feds will actually dole it out.
What would happen if Rendell is unable to squeeze $850 million out of the deficit-ridden Congress? Rendell and other PA legislators estimated that the state will have to make deep cuts. Sounding the alarms, Rendell declared that millions of dollars would be have to be cut in education funding and that 7,300 teachers would lose their jobs.
In sum, although the state budget is on track to be signed by Rendell, it is a budget filled with question marks, premised upon money that Pennsylvania simply does not now have.