New State Budget Continues Support for Core Programs, Maintains Focus on Fiscal Responsibility
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania House lawmakers today approved a new state budget that continues their commitment to protecting tax dollars and maintaining fiscal restraint. Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana), who supported the measure, praised the spending plan as a balanced approach to addressing the state’s fundamental priorities.
“Despite continuing to face significant economic challenges, we have again presented residents of Pennsylvania with a responsible budget that avoids new taxes,” Reed said. “This plan maintains our commitment to vital programs like education and represents another building block toward Pennsylvania’s economic recovery.”
The 2012-13 budget, which was approved in the House by a vote of 120-81, represents a balanced approach that combines fiscal restraint with a commitment to critical programs and services. Slated to spend $27.7 billion, the plan restores many of the funding cuts included in the governor’s February budget proposal and grew at 1.45 percent over last year – below the rate of inflation.
At the time of his budget address, the governor was forced to manage a projected $700 million deficit that forced proposed cuts to areas such as school funding and higher education. Thanks to better-than-expected revenue collections in recent months, lawmakers and the governor were able to avoid many of those original cuts and sustain critical funds to many priority programs.
“While the economy is slowly starting to recover, we were still forced to make some tough decisions this year,” Reed said. “Fortunately, we took a balanced approach that helped protect and preserve funding for local schools and higher education institutions like Indiana University of Pennsylvania.”
Indiana County school districts will receive the same funding support as they received in 2011-12. Districts will also see increases from the state for school employee pension benefits.
Included in the education funding was the full restoration of the state’s Accountability Block Grant program. These funds were not included in the February budget proposal but were fully restored to $100 million in the approved plan.
“The full restoration of the block grants will be extremely helpful for our schools, as they will provide flexible funding for districts to address the specific educational needs of our students,” Reed said.
Reed was among those who heavily advocated on behalf of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) throughout the budget process. As presented by the governor in February, the PASSHE was originally slated to yield a 20 percent reduction in funding. The approved budget fully restored the $82.6 million that was originally to be cut and ensured the PASSHE and its universities will receive the same funding as last year for a total of more than $412.7 million.
“Not only does IUP serve as a key asset in educating our future leaders, but it is a vital employer in our region and a significant contributor to our local economy,” Reed said.
In addition to the restorations to education-related programs, the 2012-13 budget also partially restores much of the proposed 20 percent funding cuts to county human service programs. The approved plan was able to limit the reductions to 10 percent, which restored $84 million to help maintain vital services to residents in need.
The budget also adds $17.8 million to reduce existing waiting lists for programs supporting special needs residents.
This was the second time in as many years that the state approved a budget before the June 30 deadline – a point worth noting after eight years of late budgets under the Rendell Administration.
“While it is important that we have been able to adopt a budget before the deadline these last two years, the more salient point is that we have done so in a responsible manner that focused on protecting our residents’ tax dollars,” Reed said.
The bill now heads to the Senate for concurrence.
State Representative Dave Reed
62nd District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Todd Brysiak