General Assembly approves the budget of $ 39.8 billion | New
The General Assembly sent Governor Tom Wolf a budget of $ 39.8 billion which increases spending on education and transport, but does not spend much of the $ 7 billion provided to the state by the through the US federal bailout.
The plan increases funding for K-12 education by $ 300 million, including $ 100 million for the 100 poorest school districts in the state. The budget also increases the amount of tax credits available for donations to scholarship funds for private school students by $ 40 million.
The plan would also inject $ 279 million into transportation infrastructure and direct $ 280 million to nursing homes and similar facilities, both of which came from federal pandemic money.
Wolf has said he will sign the spending plan next week.
“Our economy has weathered the pandemic and is now moving forward. We are a Commonwealth on the Return, ”said Wolf. “This budget will help our state move forward and rebuild a strong and fair economy that works for Pennsylvanians,” he said.
The budget was approved by the State Chamber by 140 votes to 61, and then by the Senate by 43 votes to 7.
“I think there was a general consensus that we need to be careful and that we need to be smart in our investments,” said Kerry Benninghoff, House Majority Leader of R-Center County.
“We understand that transportation is a statewide need, we are investing in it. Education is a statewide need, we are investing in it, ”he said.
State Representative Mark Longietti, D-7, Hermitage, highlighted the decision to allocate additional funds to financially struggling school districts – specifically mentioning the Farrell Area, Greenville Area and Sharon City school districts in his district. legislative – to justify its vote in favor of the budget.
“It is essential that students from low-income communities are given the same opportunities to compete for good family support jobs as those in wealthier neighborhoods,” said Longietti, Democratic leader of the House Education Committee. “I think the budget we passed today brings us a little closer to that.
There is no increase in taxes or fees.
A summary from State House GOP leaders boasted of investing $ 2.5 billion in the rainy day fund and the budget is withholding $ 5 billion in US bailout funding to help the state to navigate in the future.
State Representative Stan Saylor of R-York County, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Republicans were adamant that the budget does not spend federal money in a way that would leave l ‘Cash-strapped state to continue to run programs after the execution of the bailout dollars. outside.
He noted that after the Great Recession of 2008, the state used federal stimulus funds to fill budget deficits.
“A new governor came in, a new legislature came in and there was a $ 4 billion deficit. We want to make sure we’re not in that kind of situation where you’re cutting programs after the next election with whoever the new governor is. Do not put the General Assembly in the same situation either, ”he said.
State Representative Matt Bradford of D-Montgomery County said the state should spend the bailout money, not save it.
Saylor “learned the wrong lesson from the Great Recession,” Bradford said. “What the federal government has done well is to launch stimulus measures in unprecedented amounts … They understand that putting money in the hands of workers stimulates the economy, not the bank,” he said. he declared.
Education groups had lobbied for the state to use the bailout dollars as a cash infusion, expressing disappointment with the plan.
“Like pennies from the sky, budget negotiators had an almost magical opportunity to break through the systemic inequalities plaguing Palestinian Authority school districts – a rare opportunity to get ahead of the rapid rise in mandatory costs, which could have causing a seismic shift in the future of Pennsylvania’s economy, resulted in increased local property taxes and increased student success; yet they missed this opportunity, ”said PA Schools Work , a coalition of groups defending schools, in a statement.
Even so, the budget is “a step in the right direction,” said Nathan Mains, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Board Association. Managing Director of PSBA. “AOSP will continue to fight for solutions to the mandatory systemic cost drivers that cripple school district budgets and require increased local taxes. “
In addition to these planned increases, the budget is expected to distribute nearly $ 471 million in one-time US bailout funding from the state to schools to deal with learning loss, at-risk youth and others. needs that have occurred or worsened due to the educational changes required during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Principals across Pennsylvania have argued that public schools need additional funding to ensure that every student has the chance to succeed. Lawmakers have listened by providing a historic increase and directing funding to districts that need it most, but there is still work to be done, ”added Mains.
Funding for community violence
Democrats have touted a measure that provides $ 30 million in new funding to pay grants to tackle community violence.
“We have all stood in various places, public and private, in the face of the impact of violence,” State Senator Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia said. “It affects all communities. No one is safe from community violence, ”he said.
State Representative Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, said funding for community violence is necessary, but not enough.
“Make no mistake, we are not finished. There is a lot more to do, ”he said.
“We always understand that the root cause of the violence we see in our communities is an underfunded education system, we know that the root cause is always poverty in our communities,” he said.