General Assembly Sends Governor Veto-Proof Fiscal Code Bill

Last week, an overwhelming majority of House and Senate lawmakers sent Gov. Wolf an amended version of the Fiscal Code Bill that provides direction for how certain state funding should be spent. The governor vetoed a previous version of the legislation in March, based on his resistance to provisions relating to school funding distribution, environmental regulation and other issues – an action that led to the loss of $439 million to public schools and the threat of lawsuits. The newly passed Fiscal Code – H.B. 1589 – contains borrowing to reimburse for school construction costs and the distribution formula that was approved last year by the Basic Education Funding Commission and earned bipartisan support. In his veto last month, Governor Wolf bypassed this formula in favor of funding schools through his own distribution formula, which left legislative leaders questioning whether he had the authority to do so.

Unlike last month, the governor has made no threat to veto H.B. 1589. This is perhaps because the broad-based support for the measure in both chambers indicated that there would be enough votes for a two-thirds veto override in the legislature. A number of members in the governor’s own party voted with Republicans to pass the bill. It passed by a 149-45 vote in the House; and cleared the Senate in a 37-11 vote. Should the governor choose to veto the bill, a veto override would require a total of 136 votes in the House and 33 votes in the Senate (although this will jump to 34 following the special election on April 26).

While the administration was mum on what action Gov. Wolf intends to take with the new Fiscal Code bill, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan told reporters that the governor plans to review the legislation in its entirety.