The Senate will carefully study the $29.4 billion state General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2014-15 unveiled by Governor Tom Corbett on Tuesday (February 4) before a joint session of the General Assembly, according to Senator Elder Vogel (R-47).
“The Governor’s address is the beginning of the budget process,” Senator Vogel said. “The next few months will provide the opportunity for the Legislature to discuss the programs and policies that are important to our constituents. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am eager to begin that process.”
The Governor’s budget proposal includes a $927 million (3.3 percent) increase in state spending from the current fiscal year without increasing income taxes.
“I’m happy to see that the Governor proposes to increase the commitment to Agricultural Extension and Research as well as increase funding to support the Department of Agriculture’s administration of programs,” Vogel added. “As Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, I look forward to working with the Governor to make sure that other programs, such as Ag Excellence, dairy and youth show, are properly funded.”
While the Governor is not requesting an increase in Basic Education Funding, he is proposing a new comprehensive program to promote academic excellence in Pennsylvania’s public schools and improve student performance in the classroom and better prepare them for the needs of the modern workforce. The $341 million Ready to Learn program includes:
- The current $100 million Accountability Block Grant program.
- $240 million in block grants to:
- Improve performance in reading and math by 3rd grade;
- Support STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives; and,
- Offer flexibility to provide customized instruction.
- $1 million to provide grants of up to $20,000 to high performing schools to assist and help other districts.
The Governor’s proposed 2014-15 budget increases funding for the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program by $10 million, allowing approximately 1,670 additional Pennsylvania pre-school children to access high-quality early learning.
Special education funding is increased by $20 million in the budget proposal to $1.046 billion. This is the first increase in years and the money would be distributed to school districts based on the funding formula proposed by the Special Education Formula Funding Commission.
Governor Corbett’s budget proposal maintains funding for State System of Higher Education, state-related universities and Community Colleges at current levels. PHEAA would receive $25 million for a grant program targeting post-secondary 2- and 4-year middle income students.
Other notable items proposed in the Governor’s budget include:
- The Governor’s public pension reform proposal would provide General Fund savings of $170 million in state payments to SERS and PSERS and would collectively provide $125 million in savings for local school districts. The reforms would not impact the benefits of retirees or current employees.
- Several funding increases intended to promote business development and spur job creation in Pennsylvania, including an additional $4.7 million for the PA First program, $1.1 million more for Marketing to Attract Business, $600,000 in new money for World Trade PA, and an additional $500,000 for Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance (PREP).
- $22.4 million to provide home and community-based services for approximately 1,100 Pennsylvania adults with intellectual disabilities.
- Funding for four new classes of cadets for the Pennsylvania State Police — a total of 350 new troopers.
The Senate’s review of the budget will formally begin on February 10 with three weeks of hearings conducted by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The state’s current fiscal year ends on June 30.
Click here to watch Senator Vogel comment on the budget proposal following the joint session of the General Assembly.