Baker Says New State Budget Fiscally Responsible

The Senate today approved a state budget for Fiscal Year 2008-09 that holds the line on state spending, contains no tax increases and ensures the continuation of essential services and programs, according to Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne).

“People are concerned about rising taxes, access to quality medical care and our economy,” Baker said. “This budget addresses these issues in constructive ways. Once again, we are holding the line on government spending without eliminating essential services. And protecting our Rainy Day fund puts us in a much stronger position to weather difficult economic times.”

Baker said that while the state budget holds spending under the rate of inflation, it does include increased funding for public education, changes the school funding formula to reward financially responsible districts, and sets aside $350 million to make critical improvements to 400 bridges across the state. In addition, the voters will have the opportunity to participate in a referendum that would invest $400 million in new water and sewer projects across the Commonwealth.

“We focused on keeping spending in check and fighting against tax increases,” Baker said, “which is all the more significant with so many of us suffering sticker shock on gas prices and groceries.”

Baker said the new budget includes three initiatives that she fought hard for. One will provide $5 million in funding for critical access hospitals, two of which are Barnes Kasson County Hospital and Endless Mountains Health Center in Susquehanna County.

A second would increase funding for the Veterans Service Officer Program from $450,000 to $1.67 million – a more than 300 percent increase. Last year the governor signed legislation authored by Baker to create this program that assist veterans in getting the benefits that they’ve earned in service to our country.

“This will enable us to be more aggressive and effective in getting out to all corners of the state,” Baker said. “We will be able to reach more servicemen and women and provide them with the continuum of care that they deserve and need.”

The senator said she is especially pleased that the Legislature agreed to an initiative she fought for that would provide a $100 personal income tax credit to volunteer fire and emergency workers. This one-year provision mirrors legislation that she authored, and that was passed unanimously by the Senate in June. The bill awaits action in the House and would eventually increase the credit to $500 per person and make it permanent. The tax credits, totaling $4.5 million, are intended to help volunteer fire companies and emergency medical service companies recruit and retain members.

“Despite the recent economic downturn, we were able to pass a fiscally sound budget that won’t burden taxpayers and job creators,” Baker said. “This is a good spending plan for the Commonwealth and one that will help to keep us economically competitive.”

 Contact: Brian Grove
(570) 675-3931

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