HARRISBURG — February 3, 2021 — Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) jointly responded to Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2021-22 Budget Address with a statement Wednesday afternoon.
The senators expressed support for the broad goals and the priorities announced in the $37.84 billion proposal, adding that the proposal is a good starting point to finding long-term solutions to Pennsylvania’s structural deficit. Sens. Costa and Hughes praised the proposal’s emphasis on raising the minimum wage, increasing funding for basic education with greater focus on equity, as well as reducing taxes on low-and middle-income families.
“There are some laudable goals outlined here by our governor and many of the investments reflect requests we have seen from constituents across the state,” Sen. Costa said. “Our schools need increased funding, local governments need more assistance to handle COVID 19, and the workforce development programs proposed have the potential to get many Pennsylvanians back on the job. This is a good starting point, and we look forward to the budget hearing process and negotiations with our colleagues across the aisle and in the House to get a final budget that funds critical programs and meets our needs in this unique time.”
The proposed budget would maintain funding for human services and higher education, while also increasing funding for environmental initiatives, infrastructure repairs and improvements, and workforce development efforts across the commonwealth. Other areas of priority in the budget proposal include bolstering the commonwealth’s inventory essential health supplies and $8.5 million for four city and six county health departments to help fight and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The governor’s proposal to finally and immediately deal with the issue of equal funding of our K-12 schools, is welcome and deserves broad based support, especially since he makes sure that no student is penalized for this aggressive commitment to equity and adequacy,” Sen Hughes said. “His $1 billion commitment to clean and repair broken and toxic schools, along with his commitment to free and affordable college for Pennsylvania students are welcome policy goals that the Senate Democratic Caucus has long championed. And his desire to do all of this in a way that reduces taxes on low- and middle-income families is certainly the right way to go. This is a good direction, and we welcome the introduction of these significant policy goals as the first step in the upcoming budget and policy conversation.”
The senators believe it is critical the General Assembly develops solutions to the structural deficits the Commonwealth has faced for the past 10 years and failed to address because of a lack of cooperation from Republicans in the House and Senate. Additionally, it is still not clear what the state can expect from the federal government with regard to COVID relief packages.
The Senate Democratic caucus is most encouraged by investments in the following programs for the 2021-22 budget include:
- Full funding of public schools through the Fair Funding Formula
- $1.35 billion increase to basic education funding
- $1 billion in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grants to address school infrastructure needs in PA
- $200 million for special education
- Releases up to $36 million for additional scholarship to students under the Education Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Programs)
- $25 million for Pre-K Counts
- $11 million increase for Early intervention programs
- $5 million for the Head Start Supplemental Program
- Charter School reform for $229 million in savings to school districts
- Sets cyber charter tuition rates at $9,500 per student
- Push for $45,000 minimum salary per year for teachers
- $199 million for free and affordable college through the Nellie Bly Tuition Program
- Level funding for higher education
- Proposes minimum wage increase to $12 per hour on July 1, 2021, with a path to $15 per hour
- Tax deductions for low- and middle-income families
- Provide $3 billion to workers and businesses to stabilize the economy and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through the Back to Work PA plan
- Improves food security and supports farmers by investing $1 million in the Pennsylvania Agriculture Surplus System (PASS)
- Directs $87 million in federal funding to Child Care Works base rates and create a more stable business environment for child care facilities while improving equal access to child care services
- $8.3 million to help county and municipal health departments fight COVID-19
- 13.8 million to provide home and community-based services to 100 individuals with disabilities on waiting list and provide services through the Community Living Waiver to 732 individuals on waiting list
- Additional $1 million to fund legal services for low-income individuals and families, an issue the caucus has pushed for and will continue to fight for in future budgets
- $1.25 million for 20 Community Hospital Integration Projects Program (CHIPP) to help reduce state hospital populations
- $1 million to reduce the number of children and youth in out-of-home placements triggered by homelessness, housing instability, or inadequate housing
Budget hearings are set to begin in March. For more information on the 2021-21 Budget, visit PASenate.com/budget.