$100M pri­vate schools bill starts Pa. bud­get sea­son fight

Wolf sig­nals plans to block the bill.

The Citizens' Voice - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARC LEVY

HAR­RIS­BURG — Leg­is­la­tion to sub­stan­tially ex­pand tax­payer sup­port for pri­vate and re­li­gious schools in Penn­syl­va­nia won passage Tues­day in the Repub­li­can­con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture, although Gov. Tom Wolf is sig­nal­ing that he will block it.

The pub­lic dust-up ramps up a fight be­tween sup­port­ers of pub­lic and pri­vate schools in the thick of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Repub­li­can law­mak­ers and the Demo­cratic gover­nor over a roughly $34 bil­lion bud­get pack­age.

The bill passed the state Se­nate on a party-line ba­sis Tues­day, a month after it passed the Repub­li­can-con­trolled House on near-party lines.

Wolf said he would look at the leg­is­la­tion, but not whether he will veto it.

“What I’ve heard doesn’t sound real good,” Wolf told re­porters after an un­re­lated news con­fer­ence in his Capi­tol of­fices.

Repub­li­cans, Wolf said, haven’t ex­plained how they would fi­nance the $100 mil­lion cost of the bill, and he crit­i­cized tax cred­its pro­grams as lack­ing con­trol or ac­count­abil­ity.

Wolf, who cam­paigned for of­fice on rais­ing sup­port for pub­lic schools, said he is still work­ing to in­crease aid for a pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in Penn­syl­va­nia he called un­der­funded.

“It seems to me to be at odds with that need of a gov­ern­ment in a democ­racy like ours to sup­port broad-based, ac­ces­si­ble pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion,” Wolf said.

The bill is spon­sored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-al­legheny.

HAR­RIS­BURG — Penn­syl­va­nia’s House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is back­ing the state’s ef­fort to take over its on­line health in­sur­ance ex­change cre­ated by the Af­ford­able Care Act in a bid to cut pre­mi­ums for hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple.

The Repub­li­can-con­trolled House voted 198-1 on Tues­day for the just-un­veiled leg­is­la­tion.

Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf is press­ing for the bill to pass this month in the hope that its sav­ings mea­sures can be in full ef­fect in 2021. The bill now goes to the Se­nate, where ma­jor­ity Repub­li­cans aren’t say­ing whether they sup­port it.

Wolf ’s ad­min­is­tra­tion says it can op­er­ate the in­sur­ance ex­change for less money than the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

It wants to use the sav­ings to qual­ify for ex­tra fed­eral dol­lars and then use the com­bined cash to lower pre­mi­ums for 400,000 peo­ple who buy poli­cies in the mar­ket­place.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Gov. Tom Wolf said Repub­li­cans have not ex­plained how they would fi­nance the bill’s $100 mil­lion cost.

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