Budget Hearings Continue with DOH and PDE
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are continuing their budget hearing schedules, hosting the Department of Health most recently. Acting Secretary Dr. Debra Bogen provided testimony and answered questions ranging from medical marijuana and support for nurses to WIC and black maternal mortality rates.
During the hearing, Rep. Gina Curry spoke on black maternal health and asked the department for clarification on what the $2.3 million allocation will go toward. Acting Sec. Bogen stated that black maternal health, and maternal health in general, is a top priority. She added that the Maternal Mortality Review Commission published a report last year making recommendations, and the funding in this budget will go toward implementing many of those recommendations for programming, in addition to supporting staff during implementation. Reps. Mayes and Cephas also spoke to the importance of continued investments in maternal health and mortality.
Rep. Regina Young highlighted the department's intent to increase WIC enrollment and participation. Acting Sec. Bogen elaborated on the planned modernization of the WIC program, including virtually loaded EBT cards, reduced barriers to services, continuing virtual visits, and ensuring local agencies are servicing those most in need.
In the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Department of Education had its hearing following up from its House appearance a few weeks ago. Much like its first appearance, questions covered increases to the Basic Education Funding formula, school choice, Career and Technical Education and the free school breakfast program.
Sen. Lindsay Williams mentioned legislation in other states allowing universal free breakfast and free lunch and asked why Gov. Shapiro thinks it's important for breakfast to be in this year's budget. Acting Secretary Khalid Mumin noted starting with free breakfast is a starting point in the conversation to include universal free lunch, with its estimated cost ($435 million) needing to be further considered.
Regarding CTE, Sen. Culver asked how much is in the budget for CTE this year compared to last year. Sec. Mumin said there is a $23.8 million total investment in CTE with $17.3 million in the PDE budget for CTE—$7 million for the subsidy, $3.3 million for equipment, $5 million for PASmart and $2 million for the state-level Industry in the School Program. Jessica Sites, PDE's Bureau of Budget and Fiscal Management Director said the school code must fully fund the CTE line, and PDE has been pulling money from PASmart to fulfill that. She also noted that the department will not know until next year whether the subsidy increase will go toward career and technical centers.
Look for more upcoming e-news coverage on remaining budget hearings. The House hosts the Department of Human Services on April 11th and the Office of the Budget on April 14th. The Senate will feature the Department of Human Services on April 12th and the Department of Health on April 13th.