State Rep. Emily Kinkead on the ‘Pennsylvania budget journey’
Photo: Office of Rep. Kinkead
As summer approaches, the weather isn’t the only thing that heats up. Yes, it’s the time of year when we head into the final stages of the annual state budget process.
You may think that this process begins now, but in fact, it begins much, much earlier. In August of each year, state agencies are asked to submit their budget requests to the governor’s budget office. That office then develops a budget document, which the governor unveils in February in a joint legislative session before the House and Senate. This budget address usually includes an overview of the state’s financial picture, along with the governor’s thoughts on budget priorities.
After Gov. Wolf gave his budget address this February, both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees began budget hearings, which ran over several weeks from February into March. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, this gave me the opportunity to talk with state agency officials and ask questions about each agency’s proposed budget and to dig into specific programs and priorities.
After those hearings, budget negotiations within the legislature began in earnest. Like at the federal level, the bill that establishes the budget must first be crafted and introduced by the House. That’s where things get interesting in both the House and the Senate, as components of the budget bill are discussed and debated as the full budget is assembled. Once the bill is written, amendments are eventually offered and voted upon. Finalizing the budget bill and debating the amendments to it is what I am doing all this month in Harrisburg.
As activist and author Brittany Packnett Cunningham said, “budgets are moral documents” – and that has never been truer. How we spend our state’s funds on behalf of its people, particularly coming out of a devastating pandemic, matters. Do we prioritize workers and family sustaining wages? Do we invest in education at every level to prepare our future leaders and retrain our workforce for an evolving economy? Do we focus our efforts on repairing our environment and leaving this planet better than we found it? Do we see the cracks and breaks in our system and finally take action to transform it into one that works for everyone? Or do we continue as we always have? What will this document say about our morals to future generations?
Suffice it to say our state has a rather detailed and thorough budgetary process, and as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am honored to play a key role, and that includes asking the tough questions during budget hearings and ensuring we have a balanced and fair budget that benefits all Pennsylvanians.
If you have further questions about the state budget, or about any state-related issue, please reach out to my team and me by calling 412-321-5523 or by emailing [email protected] – remember, we’re here for you!