Budget would leave billions unspent, boost education funding – Times News Online

Published 08 Jul 2022 12:02

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania lawmakers, nearly a week into the state’s new fiscal year, on Thursday began approving budget legislation to add billions into surplus bills, significantly boost education spending and fund new environmental programs.

The Republican majority house approved the main budget bill with little debate over a 180-20 vote, hours after representatives were briefed on the details. All the no votes were Republicans.

Leaders of the IDP caucus have outlined the $ 42.8 billion spending plan for how it will affect transportation, policing and electoral activities.

“One, it saves responsible money, two, it invests responsible money, and three, while making sure we take care of today, we also plan for tomorrow,” House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, told reporters.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesman calls it a two-party agreement that increases spending on education and other of its priorities.

“The governor insists the Legislature continue to move to get a budget at its desk,” Wolf’s press secretary, Beth Rementer, said after the House vote.

The Senate also proposed budget bills on Thursday and both chambers are likely to close budget legislation on Friday.

House Republicans said the plan would repay about $ 2 billion in borrowed money and increase the rainy day fund from $ 2.9 billion to $ 5 billion. It will also leave about $ 3.6 billion unspent for future needs.

Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York, the Budget Chairman, calls the deal “exactly the medicine this commonwealth needs to fix ourselves and be the most competitive state in this nation and return ourselves to the Keystone state we belong to. to be.”

K-12 education spending will increase by more than half a billion dollars, and the state’s 100 poorest districts will split an additional $ 225 million. The plan will also increase subsidies for early childhood education, special education and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

A program that gives tax credits in exchange for private schooling will have a 45% increase to more than $ 400 million.

Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny, said the program was undermining public education and that this year’s funding “represents the single biggest attempt to privatize public education that the General Assembly has ever made”.

Wolf agreed to draw up charter school regulations approved in March.

On the environment, the framework will spend about $ 220 million on federal funds to clean up streams, about $ 150 million to fix parks and forest land, and more for sewer and water infrastructure, flood control and stormwater projects.

Spending $ 45 million on state agency elections will help provinces cover the cost of voter registration, election preparation and administration, and audit results. Private donations to pay for elections will be banned.

The legislation was in response to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s donation of hundreds of millions of dollars to help fund local elections strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of it was distributed by an impartial organization, the Center for Tech and Civic Life.

In Pennsylvania, more than 20 provinces, Philadelphia and the Department of State received funding totaling nearly $ 25 million, according to the center’s tax documents. Across the country, the money was paid for mail and absentee ballot equipment, temporary staff and personal protective equipment.

A child care tax credit will be created, along with more money for a property tax and rent rebate program for seniors and to help people with lower incomes afford the cost of heating their homes.

The corporate net income tax rate, currently 10%, will fall by 1 percentage point this year and then be on track for half-point reductions in future years until it reaches 5%.

“This is what bipartisan compromise looks like on an issue that has confused this chamber for literally decades,” said the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Matt Bradford, of Montgomery County said.

The budget would pay for 200 new state soldiers and shift funding for state police from a fund that could therefore afford more transportation projects.

Most Pennsylvania lawmakers were absent from the state capital on Tuesday, five days into the new fiscal year, without a state government spending agreement in place. AP PHOTO / MATT ROURKE, FILE

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