HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a $40.8 billion General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 that supports Pennsylvania’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, while providing a financial safety net for the future, according to Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), who voted for measure.
Baker offered the following statement:
“The budget picture improved substantially over the past six months because of billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief and a good start on a bounce back for the state economy. The deficit that everyone feared for the coming year has been alleviated primarily by federal assistance. The tax hike Governor Wolf sought when his budget was unveiled has been avoided. This enabled the budget to be done before the deadline, with no tax increases and no drastic cuts in funding for essential services.
“People hear the term budget surplus, and the pressure increases for makeup funding for all sorts of services and projects. However, we cannot count on similar money coming through again next year. The biggest items in any budget – education, health care, community protection – are going to continue to rise. It would be fiscally reckless to put the entire surplus toward spending items this year.
“The decision was to put roughly two-thirds of the federal and state money toward filling holes in the budget, covering added costs from last year, and pumping extra dollars into crucial education, health care, food assistance, and housing programs. The remaining money is set aside in the Rainy Day Fund, with the expectation it will be needed to balance the state budget decided next summer.
Every state budget involves balancing the pressure for higher spending from a wide range of advocacy groups against the interest of state taxpayers who want to see expenditures controlled.
“The pandemic was especially disruptive in education. There is an emphasis on putting more money to help struggling students and schools to catch up and preventing learning gaps from widening. A lot of parents believe their kids benefit most from in-school instruction. There are significant federal dollars committed to enabling schools to safely reopen in the fall.
“Few institutions suffered more severe hits during the pandemic than care facilities. Fortunately, we could direct federal assistance to nursing homes, assisted care facilities, and personal care homes that are indispensable parts of our health care system. These facilities provide peace of mind for families locally and offer steady jobs for area workers.
“Likewise, there is federal money put toward critical road and bridge that have been on hold because of the steep revenue losses incurred when travel was curtailed during the worst of the pandemic. This will be helpful to some communities in our region. At the same time, these funds do compensate for the lack of a state infrastructure package, where there is strong agreement on necessity but a running dispute with the governor over how to pay for it.
Other notable funding increases include money to move 800 individuals off the waiting list for intellectual disability services, launch additional violence intervention and prevention programs, and help low-income housing projects cope with the rising prices for construction materials.”
Contact: Jen Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org