Harrisburg, June 3, 2013– Senate Democrats today presented their version of a 2013-14 state budget which they say is a responsible alternative to the short-sighted and ill-advised spending plans offered by Gov. Tom Corbett and House Republicans.
Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said that the $28.4 billion spending plan focuses on job creation, education and social service programs. He said it is a balanced plan that uses policy innovations and budget savings to make key investments.
“The Corbett Administration apparently believes there are not enough resources available this year to make meaningful investments in jobs, education, social service programs and other key lines. Instead, they have offered short-sighted, ill-advised budgets that fail to meet the needs of Pennsylvania,” Costa said. “The Senate Democratic plan proves the Corbett Administration is wrong and that more can be done.
“Senate Democrats have produced a reasonable and responsible alternative to the Corbett and House Republicans budgets.”
Costa said that highlights of the Senate Democratic plan include $212 million more for education, an extra $125 million for job creation plus funding to help small cities deal with economic distress.
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According to Costa, through policy changes the Senate Democrats believe they can develop the resources to make investments now without raising broad-based taxes. The Allegheny County lawmaker said the plan is fully paid-for and balanced and does not rely on accounting gimmicks
“The Senate Democratic alternative uses policy choices and proven strategies to produce a reasonable spending plan for not only this year, but next year as well,” Costa said.
Democratic Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia) said that “the Senate Democratic budget changes the direction that Pennsylvania is going. The plan would put people back to work, invest in children and their education and makes the needs of the citizens of Pennsylvania the priority.”
Hughes said that the plan was formed through input from Democratic Senators and was the result of listening to citizens during a series of statewide policy hearings.
“The plan includes funding for jobs, education, innovation and technology in addition to funding for elements of the Senate Democratic initiative to help small cities rebound from economic challenges,” Hughes said.
Hughes said that it is important to Senate Democrats to detail a budget that uses available resources in order to demonstrate that priorities can be funded properly amid extremely difficult fiscal conditions.
Hughes said that Senate Democrats would use policy changes to produce a spending plan that overcomes budget challenges such as the estimated $360 million revenue deficit.
According to Hughes, the Senate Democratic budget alternative utilizes funds generated from liquor modernization, savings from the expansion of Medicaid and a one-year freeze in the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax to produce a reasonable spending plan.
“By agreeing to expand Medicaid, modernize liquor distribution and freeze the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax for one year we can responsibly generate funds and make a real difference,” Hughes said. “These policy decisions are not difficult and the governor should step up and agree to move Pennsylvania in a new direction.”
Hughes said the plan includes $9 million to hire 300 State Troopers and $8 million for the Attorney General that will be used to combat gang violence, illegal firearms and drugs.
Costa said other highlights of the plan include $39 million in new funds for distressed schools, an additional $50 million for Accountability Block Grants and other classroom assistance for a total of $150 million plus $84 million for a Charter Development Program. He said the plan trims spending for the Department of Public Welfare by $180 million and redistributes the savings for key items.
The Democratic Leader said he was hopeful that the plan would become part of budget negotiations. The budget deadline is June 30.