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Senate Budget Proposal is a First Step, but More Work is Needed
Today, the Senate passed a $27.65 billion spending plan that makes significant restorations to education and human services programs. After months of Senate Democrats touting a better plan for Pennsylvania, Senate Republicans have heard our call and included many of our budget priorities in this spending plan.
Senate Bill 1466 makes key restorations to basic and higher education, human services programs, hospitals, nursing homes and services for individuals with disabilities.
It is a step towards a budget that truly reflects the needs of all Pennsylvania’s citizens. The plan restores over $500 million to the budget proposed by Governor Tom Corbett.
Key Restorations Made in Senate Bill 1466:
- $112 million for basic education programs including a restoration of $50 million for the Accountability Block Grant program.
- $50 million increase in the basic subsidy for distressed school districts.
- $12 million in additional funds for early learning programs and libraries.
- Higher education cuts recommended by the Governor were fully restored in the Senate budget providing an additional $245 million for higher education programs.
- $84 million of the Governor’s recommended cut for county Human Service programs that would be consolidated into a Human Services Development Fund block grant program.
- Other Department of Public Welfare changes would restore about $35 million for hospitals and nursing homes and $10 million for persons with disabilities.
Senate Bill 1466 also:
- Fully funds life science investment ($59 million) through the CURE program from the Tobacco Settlement fund. This funding draws down $300 million in federal dollars for important cancer research.
- Forgoes $70 million in proposed transfers from the Gaming Fund for the Horsemen. The Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund is used for purses at live racing events, for health and pension benefits for the members of our horsemen's organizations, and for health and life insurance and other benefits for jockeys.
Since its inception, the Race Horse Development Fund has revived our horse racing industry. The influx of gaming revenues resulted in the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs relating to horse racing and agriculture. Our racetracks invested millions in upgrading their racing facilities. Re-directing $72 million from that fund, as Governor Corbett proposed, would be a huge step backwards and would cripple the industry.
- Maintains half ($19 million) of the funds for Key 93 programs instead of the Governor’s proposed elimination of the program. The Key 93 fund has effectively and efficiently created permanent and lasting assets for the people of Pennsylvania, improving the livability of our communities and providing irreplaceable recreational and educational opportunities to all.
The Governor's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012-13 eliminates funding for Key 93 and instead uses this funding to pay for general government operations. This would mean a loss of $30 million in direct state funding for conservation in 2012-13, and far more when factoring in local matching funds.
While this is a good first step in the budget process, there is so much more that can be done. Senate Democrats remain very concerned about what is not included in this budget, especially the cuts to General Assistance funding. This is a critical lifeline to many vulnerable people. As revenues continue to improve, we will continue to push for full restoration of General Assistance funding.
Other areas of concern include the level of funding for Child Care Services and the fact that there is still no plan to restore adultBasic or important job creation programs.
This budget plan is the first step in a process that still has a distance to go before we reach a final budget that is representative of the needs of all Pennsylvania citizens. It provides us with a starting point to move this process forward.
Senate Bill 1466 now goes to the House for its consideration.
You can find out more specifics about the 2012-13 State Budget and provide your feedback on my website at senatorhughes.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@SenatorHughes).
Offices of State
Senator Vincent Hughes