HARRISBURG — The Legislature approved a Fiscal Year 2019-20 spending plan that provides funding for essential services, promotes workforce development efforts, bolsters education spending at all levels and makes a substantial investment in the state Rainy Day Fund, according to Senator Lisa Baker, R-20th, who voted in favor of the bill. There are no tax increases, and a plan to tax municipalities utilizing State Police coverage was rejected.
House Bill 790, which spends nearly $34 billion – a 1.8 percent increase over the current fiscal year, now goes to the Governor for enactment into law.
“This budget is a reasonable and responsible effort at fitting some well-targeted spending increases within expected revenue,” said Baker. “The priorities for increases are places that will benefit the district: education, worker skills, farm assistance, school and community safety, and enhanced services for crime and abuse victims, and another layer of funding is provided for dealing with widespread drug and alcohol problems that continue to afflict our communities.”
Revenues for Fiscal Year 2018-19 are anticipated to be $865 million over projections, with an ending balance of about $300 million. All of that money will go into the Rainy Day Fund, which covers financial shortfalls in the event of a dip in the economy.
“It is good budget practice to set aside money for when tough economic times hit, to stave off deep spending cuts,” Baker noted. “For the most part, new programs and mandates requiring significant spending commitments were separated from the budget and will be debated on their own merits.”
The budget increases state support for all levels of education. Basic Education funding is increased by $160 million and special education will see a $50 million increase.
Support for early education is significant with Pre-K spending increasing by $25 million, HeadStart receiving a $5 million increase, and Early Intervention services receiving a $15 million increase. Higher education institutions will also benefit from this budget with an across-the-board 2 percent increase in funding for community colleges, state-related universities (Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln) and the State System of Higher Education.
The budget continues Senate Republicans’ ongoing efforts to protect Pennsylvania’s students and school staff by restoring the Governor’s $15 million cut to the Safe Schools program administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (back to $60 million) and increases the Safe School initiative under the Department of Education by $1 million to a total of $11 million.
The budget promotes workforce development and job training initiatives by:
- Increasing funding for Career and Technical Education by 7.6 percent ($7 million) from $92 million to $99 million.
- Increasing funding for Career and Technical Education Equipment Grants by 117.6 percent ($3 million) from $2.5 million to $5.5 million.
- Increasing funding for the Pennsylvania College of Technology by 17.6 percent ($4 million) from $22.7 million to $26.7 million.
- Increasing funding for Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology by 27.2 percent ($4 million) from $14.7 million to $18.7 million.
- Increasing funding for New Choices/New Options by 50 percent ($250,000) from $500,000 to $750,000.
The budget maintains Senate Republicans’ commitment to Pennsylvania’s farmers by restoring all of the Governor’s proposed cuts and increases the overall appropriation to the Department of Agriculture by 13 percent to $19.5 million. This additional money includes:
- Two percent increases for Ag Research/Ag Extension and the University of Pennsylvania School for Veterinary Medicine.
- New funding – Agricultural Business & Workforce Investment, $4.5 million; Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission (supplementing funding from the Race Horse Development Fund), $2 million; and, Livestock and Consumer Health Protection, $1 million.
The mandated deadline to have the budget passed was June 30.
“Getting the budget done on time clears the way for consideration of crucial economic and justice issues such as infrastructure improvements and expansion and reform of probation and parole,” Baker said. “The latter, if done right, can save money and help address the tight employment market.”