The Senate approved a General Appropriations Fund budget on Friday (June 22) for Fiscal Year 2018-19 that increases state support for education and maintains the core responsibilities of state government without a tax increase, according to Senator Elder Vogel, Jr.
“Today we find ourselves on stronger financial footing than in any year in recent memory,” Senator Vogel said. “That turnaround is a testament to the principles that have guided us through all of the recent years’ budgets – limited spending and avoiding tax increases.”
Despite increases in mandated expenses – including pensions, health care and human services – the overall increase in spending in House Bill 2121 is just 1.7 percent ($560 million) over the current fiscal year and well below the rate of inflation and within the limits prescribed in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
The budget also makes a historic investment in school safety with more than $60 million in new funding for school resource officers, security equipment and other proven methods of preventing school violence. “While the funding is critical, we are fully aware that additional money won’t solve the problem alone – we need to look at programs and resources that school districts can use to keep our kids safe,” Senator Vogel said. “A number of measures have already been introduced, and our School Safety Task Force is still developing additional initiatives. We will use the summer to hold hearings, gather public feedback and work on a final product.”
A significant part of the additional spending is devoted to education. The budget increases funding for Basic Education by $100 million, Pre-K Counts and Head Start by $25 million, and Special Education by $15 million. Educational Improvement Tax Credits – which help students trapped in failing schools – will also see a $25 million increase.
“I also am pleased to see the increase in education funding including an additional $30 million for Career and Technical Education to ensure Pennsylvania’s workforce keeps pace with the demands of the labor market,” Senator Vogel said. “Focusing on job preparedness is imperative.”
Higher education is also a priority in the budget. State System of Higher Education funding will increase by 3.3 percent, and funding for state-related universities will increase by 3 percent. Community colleges will also see a 3-percent boost in funding.
Additional funding is also included for the Pennsylvania State Police to train three new cadet classes, which will result in nearly 300 additional troopers.
Other highlights include additional funding for:
- Services for individuals with intellectual disabilities
- Home and community-based services for an additional 5,230 seniors and those with physical disabilities
- Child care services to an additional 1,600 children
- Home visit services for 800 families impacted by the opioid epidemic
- Career and Technical Education to ensure Pennsylvania’s workforce keeps pace with the demands of the labor market
The budget also recognizes the importance of three industries that have historically been among Pennsylvania’s most critical sectors of the economy: agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, restoring funding that the Governor’s original budget plan cut.
“Passing a fiscally responsible budget this year is an absolute necessity in the face of the daunting challenges we will face in the years to come,” Senator Vogel said. “But with those challenges come new opportunities that could set our Commonwealth on the path to a brighter economic future.”
CONTACT: Cheryl Schriner