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News Date: Friday, June 28, 2024

As budget negotiations continue ahead of the start of the 2024-2025 fiscal year, county priority issues, including mental health funding, 911 updates and others are left in limbo.
Media reports have indicated a working target may be emerging for the FY 2024-2025 budget with a total spending amount likely to be slightly less than Governor Shapiro’s $48.3 billion proposal, although no final agreement has been released. Both chambers have moved vehicles for the FY 2024-2025 appropriations legislation through their respective chambers of origin, with both chambers not set to return until July 1, indicating the state budget will not be completed ahead as the new fiscal year begins. Updates follow below on the status of matters of particular importance to counties. 
 
Mental health funding 
As budget negotiators work to determine how to fund initiatives without a new revenue source, counties continue to strongly advocate for a $250 million funding increase to county mental health services in the state budget as one of their top legislative priorities for 2024. This increase would directly address the critical need to invest in coordinated mental health services that can be used to address the highest needs in each community, including coordinating with schools, hospitals, providers, law enforcement and other complex needs not covered by other programs or services. A significant investment in county mental health services is needed to bolster and support the broader system and ensure other investments in mental health, including school-based and crisis services, foundational programs, prevention services, follow-up care and a workforce to support those parts of the system. 
 
Elections 
Another county budget priority is funding and resources for elections. Counties support efforts by the General Assembly and the Governor to include additional state funding in the budget to assist counties with their rising costs for operating elections and for the ability to increase and train elections staff. Additional funding for the Election Integrity Grant Program would allow for more grant funding to counties for election administration and security, though counties caution that administrative requirements tied to that funding, such as requiring pre-canvassing to continue without interruption on Election Day until complete, can diminish the value of these resources. 
 
911 
Additionally, while not a fiscal issue, counties urge quick action on updating provisions of the 911 statute to fit in line with NG911 standards, best practices and additional requirements. Specifically, counties are requesting the adoption of language contained in HB 1854 (Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Philadelphia), which would clarify provisions related to GIS information, call routing and addressing and ensure caller personal information can be protected. This language is a product of multiple stakeholder discussions between counties, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Association (PEMA), the Association Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Emergency Numbers Association (NENA). 
 
Other priority issues on the table during June legislative and budget discussions include: 
  • $15 million in one-time funding for renovation costs to bring existing buildings up to the required standards to serve as regional juvenile facilities to address counties’ juvenile detention crisis priority. 
  • Consideration of SB 525 (Sen. Cris Dush, R-Cameron), which supports county Right-to-Know Law priorities, allow government agencies to petition the Office of Open Records (OOR) for relief from a requestor that the agency alleges is a vexatious requestor. 
  • $2.5 million in state funding for county cybersecurity efforts, particularly around maintenance of funding following the federal state and local cybersecurity program. 
Counties look forward to a prompt and successful completion of the state budget so they can continue to fulfill critical responsibilities to their residents who rely on the programs and services they provide in local communities that are supported by state funding. More information on counties’ top 2024 legislative priorities can be found on the Priorities webpage.