HARRISBURG, June 29, 2012 – State Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes (D-Phila./Montgomery) today called final passage of the 2012-13 state budget a “first step toward redirecting our priorities to the needs of all Pennsylvanians, not just a favored few.” His statement is below:

“While this budget is not how I would have crafted a spending plan, it is a budget that is significantly better than the misguided plan offered by Governor Corbett in February. This spending plan has come a long way from the governor’s budget proposal and addresses many of the governor’s misplaced priorities.

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Not only does the budget include initiatives championed by Senate Democrats, it contains $775 million in budget restorations to key programs that educate our children, protect our families and grow our economy. These programs were all significantly cut in the governor’s budget proposal.

The governor’s proposed budget would have forced deep cuts for basic and higher education. Hospitals, nursing homes, and environmental programs would have faced deep additional cuts on top of the draconian funding reductions already enacted in last year’s budget.

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Simply put, this budget, crafted in a bipartisan manner, rescues Pennsylvanians from the devastation that the governor’s budget proposal presented. We have a budget before us that restores all the funds for education that our governor proposed cutting. These funds will provide essential lifelines for hundreds of school districts that are struggling to avoid devastating program cuts.

This budget also avoids cuts to higher education that would have burdened college students with unnecessary tuition increases. In fact, through negotiations and as a result of the funds provided in this spending plan, Temple, Penn State, Pitt and Lincoln, as well as our 14 state-system universities have all committed to either a tuition freeze or minimal tuition increases.

In his budget, the governor proposed a cut for aid for county human service programs by 20 percent. This budget restores 50 percent of that cut.

This budget still has shortcomings. There are still many misplaced budget priorities evident.

In last year’s budget, the governor and the Republican majority made a clear public statement that a few special interest business friends were their priority, while the plight of working and middle class families, local schools and universities, counties and local governments, the elderly and the infirmed were ignored.

This resulted in a reduction of aid to local school districts by nearly $1 billion, which has forced many schools into insolvency; yet tax breaks gave our largest corporations a windfall of more than $600 million. This year, there is more of the same. Additional corporate tax cuts and new tax credits will cost us an estimated $365 million next year.

The budget does not restore essential safety net assistance for thousands of families who struggle every day with disabilities, domestic abuse, homelessness, and raising children.

There are still vulnerable Pennsylvanians who will suffer greatly because of this spending plan, especially those 70,000 Pennsylvanians who will lose General Assistance cash grants due to cuts.

That is truly a failure, one that we will have to address for the sake of these vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

This budget plan also fails to address other longer term budget issues. Transportation and critical infrastructure investment needs cannot continue to be ignored. Our local schools and higher education institutions require a renewed commitment.

What remains clear is that the restorations made in this spending plan are a critical first step. It is my hope that with this budget we can chart a new direction. There is still much work to do moving forward to solve all the problems of Pennsylvania. I believe this budget puts us on the right track to do that.”