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Senate sends budget back to the House, CUTTING $4M MORE from IDD waivers

Despite Wednesday's rally, the Senate refused to restore the $168M cut made by the House. The result? Adults with IDD could receive $20M less next year than was budgeted last year, despite pressures from inflation and growth and historic service cutbacks .

On June 30th, the Senate sent a budget back to the House that included the waiver-funded programs that adults with IDD depend on. Instead of beginning to restore some of the $168M cut by the House from the budget originally proposed by Governor Shapiro in March 2023, the Senate cut an additional $4M from the House's budget, The House and Senate actually sent the budget back below last year's levels. The Senate's actions were surprising given the number of families affected by persistent and significant gaps in services. Hundreds of people with disabilities, their parents, and service providers rallied in the Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers and their staffers looked on.


Here is the timeline of budget proposals for those keeping track, and what we have heard lawmakers and state officials are saying.


Governor Shapiro and the Department of Human Services (DHS)

The Governor's March budget proposal totaling $45.9B included $2.496B in state funding for adult IDD waivers based on recommendations from DHS. As described elsewhere, this budget included funds to decrease the IDD waiting list for waivers while also accommodating those aging into the system with entry level (Person Family Directed) waivers. Most of the 18% ($354M) increase backfilled the loss of Federal pandemic relief funds, however, and so the budget did not actually increase services to those already on waivers or rates paid to Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). The Governor's budget also projected that $234M of the unspent funds would be left-over from last year's $2.35B waiver budget..


The House

The Governor's budget was introduced as is into HB 611 taken up by the House Appropriations Committee on May 5th.The House sent an amended budget on to the Senate on June 5th on a party line vote (102 Democrats for and 101 Republicans against). While the overall budget increased to about $46.4B, the House cut the amount budgeted for adult IDD waivers by Governor Shapiro by $168M to $2.328B. The $2.328B allocated by the House for 2023-24 is actually $18M less than the $2.346B allocated last year.


We understand that House lawmakers cited the $234M in unspent funds left-over from last year's waiver budget as justifying the $168M cut. We also understand that DHS officials explained that the unspent funds were due to underutilization of service. DHS did not explain to lawmakers, however, that underutilization was likely due to problems accessing the services needed. DHS also did not explain that the gap in services was primarily due to the shortage of DSPs, which itself was due to the low wages set by DHS. And DHS definitely did not convey the impact of these service gaps on people living with IDD across Pennsylvania!


The Senate

After multiple meetings of the Senate Appropriation Committee beginning on June 19th, the Senate approved a budget on almost on a party line vote (28 Republicans and 1 Democrat for and 21 Democrats against). The Senate's proposed budget of almost $45.6B (almost $300M less than that proposed by the Governor and $800M less than that proposed by the House) cut the amount allocated to adult IDD waivers by almost $5M to $2.323B or $20M less than the amount allocated last year.


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Our discussions with lawmakers and their staff (and those reported to us by other advocates) have been revealing. Some lawmakers have expressed clear opposition to the cuts - in some cases, putting those objections in writing to leaders. Other lawmakers have denied that services were being cut at all, citing the overall increase in the state budget for IDD waivers. Remarkably, this included key committee members.


We do not know if these Senators and Representatives recognize that the budget for IDD waiver services is actually shrinking compared to last year. A shrinking budget will increase pressure given that inflation has grown by almost 5%, and the number of individuals drawing on waivers has grown by 2-4%. Do lawmakers understand that the system of services has yet to recover from a 24% drop in service capacity during COVID? As we shall discuss elsewhere, the $168+M cut has now become central to the budget strategy enacted by Democrats and Republicans. In other words, cuts to levels of service for adults with IDD appear to now be the key to funding the pet projects of our lawmakers.

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