Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Morning Call

Expecting Good News for Public and Higher Education in House GOP Budget Next Week . . . Welfare Programs Not so Lucky

According to John Micek of the Morning Call, the state House will introduce a $27.3 billion budget plan next week that contains good news for public and higher education but the state’s public welfare programs are not so lucky.

Here are some noteworthy items expected in the House GOP budget unveiling next week:

  • The budget will trim $470 million from public welfare programs. Social service programs aid veterans, abused children, the elderly and the mentally ill. Taking funding from the welfare programs but restoring some of the public and higher education funding is a bit like “robbing Peter to pay Paul”; a reshuffle of the allocations.
  • $43 million to help school districts meet their Social Security payments.
  • Increase state public education funding by $210 million for kindergarten through 12th grade. The budget funding should restore school district funding to the 2008-09 level (pre-stimulus money).
  • $100 million appropriated for ‘Accountability Block Grants’ which school districts use to fund after-school tutoring. (The program was eliminated in Corbett’s proposed budget) This could be good news for T/E school district . . . after-school tutoring (value $85K) was on the budget strategy list. In fact, FLITE has been working on fundraising to keep the program.
  • It is expected that next week’s budget announcement will include restoring some of the funding to the state’s higher education – If you recall Corbett’s proposed budget slashed higher education funding by 50 percent. Apparently, there has been a change of heart in Harrisburg and higher education will see an increase of funding of $380 million in next week’s budget. There is good news expected for Temple, Lincoln, Pitt and Penn State Universities when the budget is unveiled; these four universities will see their funding going up and they should receive 75 percent of their current level.

I am going to be curious to see how the better-than-expected general fund collection surplus plays in to the budget. The fiscal-year information released this week indicates the current surplus at $506 million. In the remaining two months in the state’s fiscal year, the surplus could grow even further – some are suggesting the surplus may grow to nearly $600 million.

How will Harrisburg use the unexpected $500+ million surplus? I would like to see some of this ‘found’ money help restore public education funding cut by Corbett’s proposed budget . . . making education a priority in Pennsylvania. It appears that Corbett and some of the top leadership of his own party is at odds over what to do with the surplus in the current fiscal year. Corbett wants to place the $500 million surplus in reserve and continue with the proposed cuts. However, the majority of the Senate Republicans disagrees and wants at least some of the surplus to restore cuts in the budget proposal, including public education.

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