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Senate OKs $45.5B state budget without House agreement

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(The Center Square) – A $45.5 billion state budget cleared its first legislative hurdle Friday, with the bulk of its new discretionary spending focused on education.

The Senate approved House Bill 611 on a vote of 29-21, though House leaders have said they won’t consider it for a “few days” – blowing past the June 30 deadline.

The plan will send an extra $567.4 million to public schools, matching the amount Gov. Josh Shapiro requested in March. Key budget negotiator and Senate Appropriations Chairman Scott Martin, R-Strasburg, noted that the 8% boost is the largest single-year increase in state history.

Programs for school safety and student mental health would receive $125 million and $100 million, respectively.

Business tax credits programs that cover private school tuition for low-income students would get $150 million extra, while the much-debated scholarship program would be funded at $100 million – matching the amount amended into a fiscal code bill on Thursday.

All but one Democrat – Philadelphia Sen. Tony Williams – voted against the measure, citing the extra spending on school choice programs that the party says should be spent on public schools instead.

Tony has been an outlier amongst his colleagues for supporting school choice, both via tax credits and the new scholarship program.

The budget is due Friday.

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