HARRISBURG – The PA Senate Appropriations Committee began the first of three weeks of public hearings on the proposed 2023-24 state budget. Gov. Josh Shapiro’s $45.8 billion plan hikes state spending by over $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget. Revenue estimates and the health of the Rainy Day Fund were the focus of questions for Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel, who said uncertainty at the national level has made it more difficult to make economic forecasts. Committee Chairman, Sen. Scott Martin and other members voiced concern over the projection of annual deficits of more than $2 billion a year for the next five years if the governor’s budget is adopted. The state’s Rainy Day Fund, which was built up to $5 billion, should be even larger, according to experts. Committee members noted it would be almost completely depleted by 2027-28 under the governor’s spending plan. Also discussed were the impact of a new Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative tax on already rising energy prices and the ongoing demographic challenges PA faces with its aging population and work force.