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Happy Monday: We have a budget
On Friday, lawmakers passed a $39.8 billion general fund spending plan. Factoring in one-time spending from federal stimulus funds, the general fund spending plan is $40.8 billion. (The “general fund” part is important, as off-book spending amounts to tens of billions of dollars more). The new budget banks rather than immediately spends much of the $7.3 billion in federal COVID relief. The plan passed 140-61 in the House and 43-7 in the Senate. While the budget includes no increase in personal or business taxes, the Commonwealth Foundation notes that its spending “greatly exceeds inflation and population growth.” There are some tax breaks in the budget, however, and PennLive gives a rundown of them. One high point is a $40 million increase in tax credit scholarships, the second-highest one-year increase in history. Gov. Wolf has indicated he will sign the budget.
Senate sends election reform to Gov. Wolf
On Friday, the Senate passed HB1300, the comprehensive election reform package introduced by Rep. Seth Grove (York County). The vote was 29-21, with independent John Yudichak (Carbon and Luzerne counties) joining all Republicans in voting in favor. Gov. Wolf has pledged to veto the bill, prompting a pointed reply from Rep. Grove. For more on the legislation, check out this ABC27 interview with Grove.
Cocktails-to-go effort appears ‘dead’ until at least the fall
The Senate on Friday did not take up the House-amended version of the bill that would have made cocktails-to-go permanent in PA. The Inquirer reports that the “sticking point” in the Senate was the provision (stripped in the House version) that would expand who could sell ready-to-drink cocktails. Now, it appears the bill will not see action until at least the fall.
Op-Ed: Harrisburg’s hottest lies
Our President and CEO Matt Brouillette has an op-ed in the Sunbury Daily Item outlining three of the hottest lies emanating from Harrisburg today. Unfortunately, some of these lies have been repeated often enough that many believe they’re true.
PA mask mandate ends today
While Gov. Wolf had originally said the state’s mask mandate would end once 70% of adults are fully vaccinated, anyone who’s paid attention this past year didn’t really expect this random metric to hold. And, indeed, it hasn’t. Wolf since changed his message to “70% or June 28, whichever comes first.” Of course, the scientific data behind June 28 remains in the “elusive-to-nonexistent” category. Still, the mask mandate ends today, with a few exceptions. Of course, the Wolf administration still believes it has the power to reimpose the mandate at any time.