Senate Approves On-Time, Balanced State Budget that Boosts Funds for Schools, Drug Prevention
The state Senate passed a balanced and on-time state budget bill that boosts funding for education to the highest level in state history and allocates new funds to fight the state’s opioid epidemic.
Act 16A supports the core functions of government, and allocate $245 million in new funding for basic education, special education, and Pre-K Counts without the need for new or increased income or sales tax.
The budget also includes $15 million to address the state’s opioid epidemic, $11 million in additional funding for veterans’ homes, and an additional $345 million to help reduce the state’s pension debt.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25): “Today, the Senate has passed a bi-partisan budget, which takes the next step in completing an on-time and balanced 2016-17 budget by the June 30th deadline. Senate Bill 1073 makes substantial investments in education and vital state services – helping to strengthen our Commonwealth.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34): “Day after day, I heard from people in my communities that they could not endure another budget impasse but at the same time could not withstand a massive tax increase. Today, we showed that we were listening by approving a spending plan that funds the priorities of state government, including continuing to provide significant money toward all levels of education, without asking for a broad-based tax increase.”
Senate Appropriations Chair Pat Browne (R-16): “In recognizing the financial struggles the Commonwealth continues to face, this budget provides a fiscally responsible and modest increase in spending for vital state programs and services, while protecting hard working families and job creators from onerous tax increases and burdens. This budget also recognizes the need to invest in our children and their futures by increasing funding for basic education, early intervention programs, special education and higher education.”
- The $31.53 billion 2016-17 Fiscal Year (FY16-17) General Fund (GF) budget in Senate Bill 1073 is nearly $2 billion less than Governor Wolf’s budget request from February.
- The FY16-17 budget is balanced without broad-based tax increases, i.e. personal income tax or sales and use taxes.
- The plan increases state support for PreK-to-12 education to unprecedented levels, provides additional funding to address opioid abuse, and dramatically increases state spending for the prevention and treatment of the West Nile and Zika viruses.
- Increases Higher Education Spending by 2.5%
- The budget restores state funding for vital agricultural programs and services cut in the Governor’s February proposal and provides money to address avian flu.
- It addresses mandated spending (Cost-to-Carry) increases in corrections, human services and public pension obligations – without the need for a broad-based tax burden on residents or employers.
- The FY16-17 budget increases the state’s share of PreK-12 funding (by $665 million) to a historic high of $11.7 billion.
- Basic Education Funding increases by $200 million (3.5 percent) from $5,695,079 to $5,895,079 in FY16-17.
- It provides an additional $25 million for the Pre-K Counts program (to $147 million), a $20 million boost for special education (to nearly $1.1 billion), an increase of $10.4 million for early intervention programs (to $252 million), and $5 million more for Head Start (to $49 million).
Meeting the State’s Obligations
- Of the $1.4 billion spending increase in the FY16-17 budget, the vast majority of the money goes to meeting the state’s obligations for public pensions, Human Services programs, Medicaid expansion, and the Department of Corrections.
- Addressing the public pension issue remains a top priority for the Senate Republican Caucus, as public pensions continue to be among the largest cost drivers for both the state and local school districts.
- Payments to PSERS for school employee pensions accounted for $345 million (20.1 percent) in new spending to a total of over $2 billion in FY16-17.
- State employee pensions required an additional $140 million (22 percent) in General Fund spending for a total of $770 million (an additional $1 billion comes from other non-GF sources: the Motor License Fund, federal funds and other special funds and accounts).
- Much of the $466 million in new money for the Department of Human Services (total of $11.9 billion) is required spending by the federal government.
- More than $153 million (6.8 percent) is needed to fund the Department of Corrections, from $2.23 billion in FY15-16 to $2.39 billion in FY16-17.
Opioid Addiction, Public Health
- The budget allocates $15 million to combat heroin and opioid addiction, including funds for emergency addiction treatment and behavioral health services.
- Funding for West Nile Virus and Zika Virus Control is increased by $1.4 million (36.8 percent) to a total of $5.3 million.
- The budget restores funding that was eliminated by the Governor for a number of important health programs: Regional Cancer Institutes ($600,000); Lupus ($100,000); Trauma Prevention ($460,000); Epilepsy Support Services ($550,000); Bio-Technology Research ($669 million); Tourette Syndrome ($150,000); ALS Support Services ($500,000).
- $3 million in new money is appropriated for Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program.
Supporting Pennsylvania’s #1 Industry
- The budget restores funding for key agricultural programs eliminated by the Governor and provides $2 million in new funding to combat avian flu.
- Overall, the Department of Agriculture budget is increased by 5 percent ($6.9 million) from FY15-16 to a total of $143.7 million for FY16-17.
- This includes the restoration and expansion of funding cut by the Governor for: Agricultural Excellence ($1.2 million); Agricultural Research ($1.69 million); Farmers’ Market Food Coupons ($2 million); Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports ($275,000); Hardwoods Research and Promotion ($385,000); Livestock Show ($195,000); and Open Dairy Show ($195,000).
- State funding for the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs increases by 12.8 percent ($16.59 million) to nearly $146 million in FY16-17, including a 12.8 percent increase ($11.6 million) in state support for Veterans Homes ($102 million).
- The budget includes funding for three classes of state trooper cadets.