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Advocates in Harrisburg call for lawmakers to spend surplus funds on education, other initiatives

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Budget season in Harrisburg is unusual this year. The state is sitting on a nearly $15 billion surplus, a combination of federal COVID funds and increased tax revenues.

Some groups like, We the People - Pennsylvania, want to see some of that money now. They were joined Tuesday in Harrisburg by members of the Democratic caucus, calling for investing at least $2 billion in initiatives like education, a minimum wage boost, and more.

"These are our dollars. There are the people's dollars. These are the people's funds. This is the people's money," said state Sen. Vincent Hughes.

"We have a moral obligation to use that money to help the people of Pennsylvania instead of helping corporations and the ultra rich," said Nick Presley, the campaign director of the Pennsylvania Budget Policy Center.

"We need to address poverty, and that's really the be all end all of it," Presley said.

"This is my first budget where we have resources to invest back in the people of Pennsylvania, and it's about time we start doing it," said Democratic State Rep. Pete Schweyer.

Schweyer, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, says the clock is ticking, for the state has about 18 months left to spend COVID funds.

"So it's absurd for us to sit here on this billions of dollars of funding, that could be put in the hands of people who need it the most right now," Schweyer said.

Republicans seem ready to invest more dollars this year, but disagree on the amount. They're worried about a possible recession.

"If you over spend now, then you're locked into that money going forward," said state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie.

"I'm cautiously optimistic some of the purse strings will be loosened," Schweyer said.

So, again, the question is what will the amount of investment be?

Most likely not as much as the advocates in Harrisburg Tuesday would like to see.

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