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PA Senate Hearings Provide Update on State Budget, Pandemic Response

April 22, 2021

Closing out this year’s lineup of state budget hearings, agency secretaries with the Department of Health (DOH), General Services, and the state Budget Office answered questions about Governor Wolf’s 2021–2022 state budget proposal and outlined their challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This morning, Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee about the state’s public health strategy during the pandemic and the need to prepare Pennsylvania for future emergencies.

“Pennsylvania’s past of defunding public health should not be our future,” Acting Health Secretary Beam said.

Among the key items discussed during the DOH budget hearing:

  • Federal vs. state funding: In her opening statement, Acting Secretary Beam said Pennsylvania must balance the use of one-time federal grant funding to invest in the state’s public health infrastructure with ongoing state investments in public health, particularly focusing on data and reporting systems, the public health workforce, and supporting community engagement
  • Pennsylvania Rural Health Model: Acting Secretary Beam said Pennsylvania’s Rural Health Model has helped sustain some of the state’s rural hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing consistent upfront revenue for participating hospitals. The state is looking to recruit additional hospitals to join the program
  • Sustainable funding: Lawmakers said they looked forward to collaboration with the DOH as the agency evaluates its needs to prepare for future emergencies, stressing the importance of a sustainable approach to funding public health
  • Vaccination among seniors: Acting Secretary Beam highlighted the state’s collaboration with county Area Agencies on Aging to vaccinate Pennsylvania’s older adults

During the afternoon hearing, Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Jen Swails and General Services Secretary Curt Topper answered questions from the Senate Appropriations Committee about the following topics: 

  • Governor Wolf’s revenue proposals to legalize recreational cannabis, impose a severance tax on natural gas, and increase the Personal Income Tax
  • Plans to acquire a new location to warehouse the state’s personal protective equipment stockpile. Secretary Topper said the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex is not an ideal location for the stockpile, and the state is pursuing an alternate site
  • The state’s structural deficit, which Secretary Swails estimated at $3 billion, and how to adjust the budget planning to include additional one-time revenue from the federal government 

Throughout the budget process, HAP will continue to advocate for additional resources to support Pennsylvania’s hospitals and health systems as they continue their lifesaving work during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. For more information, contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.