Budget Holds Line on Spending, Boosts Education Funding

The Senate approved a General Appropriations Fund budget on Friday for Fiscal Year 2018-19 that increases state support for education and maintains the core responsibilities of state government without a tax increase, according to Senator Don White.

Despite increases in mandated expenses – including pensions, health care and human services – the overall increase in spending in House Bill 2121 is just 1.7 percent ($560 million) over the current fiscal year and well below the rate of inflation and within the limits prescribed in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

The spending total of $32.7 billion is more than $270 million less than Governor Wolf’s original budget request and does not include his proposed new taxes on State Police services and Marcellus Shale gas extraction.

 “This budget recognizes the economic reality facing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and addresses our obligations, such as escalating public pension premiums,” said Senator White. “It maintains Pennsylvania’s core programs and services and provides additional money for education, without the need to increase income or sales taxes, the state sales tax or imposing a job-killing Marcellus Shale extraction tax.”

House Bill 2121 increases funding for Basic Education by $100 million to a total of more than $6 billion. It also increases the state investment in early childhood education by $25 million and special education by $15 million. Educational Improvement Tax Credits – which help students trapped in failing schools – will also see a $25 million increase.

State System of Higher Education funding will increase by 3.3 percent, and funding for state-related universities will increase by 3 percent. Community colleges will also see a 3-percent boost in funding.  

“This budget is good news for students at IUP and those attending other universities and colleges across the state. I am pleased that this budget evolved to the point where we could increase state support for higher education and help families as they deal with tuition costs,” Senator White said.

The spending package also includes an additional $4 million in state funds and approximately $8 million in federal matching funds to increase Medicaid reimbursements to EMS companies for their services.

“I strongly support this increase in Medicaid reimbursement funding for our EMS companies in the budget,” said Senator White, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 1003 – a measure that would ensure EMS agencies are properly reimbursed in cases where transportation to a medical facility is unnecessary or refused. “We sometimes take for granted the good work our ambulance crews provide, but running a quality EMS operation comes at a substantial cost. This increased funding provides greater support for Pennsylvania’s EMS crews as they continue their good work in protecting the lives and well-being of our citizens.”

The Governor’s original budget plan would have gutted a number of critical agriculture items. House Bill 2121 restores funding for programs like Agriculture Excellence, Agricultural Research, Hardwoods Research and Promotion, Food Marketing and Research, and more. In total, programs under the Department of Agriculture will receive $10 million more than the Governor’s original budget request.

The budget not only restores the Governor’s proposed $8 million cut to tourism marketing, but increases funding by nearly $5 million over the current fiscal year total. The Governor also proposed nearly $22 million in cuts to the Department of Community and Economic Development. House Bill 2121increases funding for these job creation and community improvement programs by more than $11 million over the current fiscal year. Additional funding is also included for the Pennsylvania State Police to train three new cadet classes, which will result in nearly 300 additional troopers.

 

Contact:          Joe Pittman                 jpittman@pasen.gov