HARRISBURG, November 20, 2020 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today released the following statement regarding passage of a $35 billion state budget which accounts for the final seven months of the fiscal year that were not addressed in May.
The interim budget passed in May accounted for 5 months spending in the current Fiscal Year due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The interim budget did, however, fund all education-related line items, including higher education, at 100% of the current FY 2019-20 enacted levels for the full 12 months.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our state’s economy; our schools; our business community; our county and municipal governments; and, of course, on our families and citizens. And instead of utilizing federal CARES funds as they were intended, this budget uses $1.3 billion of those emergency funds to fill our budget deficit and it defers real obligations to next year.”
“CARES funding should have been utilized to releive some of the pain inflicted by COVID-19 and to compensate our frontline workers; assist our hospitality industry – bars, restaurants, social clubs and veterans’ organizations – as well as other small businesses. We could have relieved some of the stress on our people while pushing forward the costs of this pandemic by doing some responsible borrowing given that interest rates are extraordinarily low.”
“The total amount of one-time funds used to balance this smoke and mirrors budget is roughly $4.3 billion – dollars that will not be available to us next Fiscal Year and the decisions made today only worsen our fiscal outlook and they will further complicate our budget negotiations come June 2021.”
“I understand the unparalleled challenges we are faced with in balancing a budget in the midst of an economic crisis and global pandemic – particularly with a lack of leadership and support from Washington DC. There were, however, better options and solutions that we could have pursued for our citizens; our schools; our nonprofits; and our business community than what passed today.”=
The Senate passed the budget contained in Senate Bill 1350 by a 31-18 vote. Blake voted no on final passage.
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