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 Dan Laughlin.
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 over the current fiscal year and well below the rate of inflation and within the limits prescribed in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
“Today we followed through on our commitment to the people of Pennsylvania to pass a budget on time without increasing taxes,” Senator Laughlin said. “We were able to do this in large part because the overall health of the economy is improving.”
The spending total of $32.7 billion is more than $270 million less than Governor Wolf’s original budget request and does not include his proposed new tax on State Police services.
“This spending plan reflects the current economic conditions in Pennsylvania and particularly in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Spending is held in check, which was not an easy task considering we were looking at mandated increases in many line items,” Senator Laughlin said. “Most importantly, this budget maintains key services and programs without increasing the burden on taxpayers.”
House Bill 2121 increases funding for Basic Education by $100 million to a total of more than $6 billion. It also increases the state investment in early childhood education 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.
State System of Higher Education funding will increase by 3.3 percent, and funding for state-related universities will increase by 3 percent. This will help keep tuition from rising faster than the inflation rate.
The budget makes a historic investment in school safety with $70 million in funding – including $60 million in new money — for school resource officers, security equipment and other proven methods of preventing school violence.
“Increased school safety funding is something I requested to be in this years’ budget,” Senator Laughlin said. “This issue has been at the forefront of peoples’ minds across the Commonwealth and I am glad that my request hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. I think that this is a good start to addressing some of the concerns by investing an unprecedented amount of state money to make our classrooms safer and to protect our young people. This is just a part of our continuing effort in this area and I expect school safety to continue to be a major area of emphasis for the General Assembly this fall.”
The Governor’s original budget plan would have gutted a number of critical agriculture items. House Bill 2121 restores funding for programs like Agriculture Excellence, Agricultural Research, Hardwoods Research and Promotion, Food Marketing and Research, and more. In total, programs under the Department of Agriculture will receive $10 million more than the Governor’s original budget request.
The budget not only restores the Governor’s proposed $8 million cut to tourism marketing, but increases funding by nearly $5 million over the current fiscal year total. The Governor also proposed nearly $22 million in cuts to the Department of Community and Economic Development. House Bill 2121increases funding for these job creation and community improvement programs by more than $11 million over the current fiscal year.
Contact: Matt Azeles firstname.lastname@example.org