Senator Browne’s Response to Governor’s Budget Address

Senate ready to consider Gov. Corbett’s FY 2014-15 budget request

Proposal includes $10.1 billion for Education, $20 million for Special Education under new formula proposed by special education funding commission

Governor Tom Corbett unveiled his $29.4 billion state General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2014-15 on Tuesday (February 4) before a joint session of the General Assembly, according to Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne.

The budget proposal includes a $927 million (3.3. percent) increase in state spending over the current fiscal year without increasing taxes and projects $1.424 billion in revenue growth (4.89 percent) in Fiscal Year 2014-15.

Highlighted in the address was a focus on education with emphasis on special and early childhood education. The proposal calls for an additional $20 million for special education and an increase of $10 million for the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program.

“I am certainly pleased that the Governor recognized the importance of and need for investing in early childhood education programs and special education,” Senator Browne said. “These programs have a proven track record and produce the kinds of results that make a difference not only for those children, but also for our schools in the short-term and our society in the long-run.”

The additional $20 million marks the first increase in funds for special education in six years and brings the total spending to $1.046 billion. This extra allocation will be distributed to school districts based on the funding formula proposed by the Special Education Funding Commission, which Senator Browne co-chaired.

With this proposed budget, the total increased investment in Pre-K Counts since 2011 will total $13.6 million or a 16.3 percent increase and will help supplement the $51.7 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant awarded to Pennsylvania in December of 2013.

The Governor also proposed a new comprehensive program to promote academic excellence in Pennsylvania’s public schools and improve student performance in the classroom and better prepare them for the needs of the modern workforce. The $341 million Ready to Learn program includes:

  • The current $100 million Accountability Block Grant program.
  • $240 million in block grants to:
    • Improve performance in reading and math by 3rd grade;
    • Support STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives; and,
    • Provide flexibility to provide customized instruction.
  • $1 million to provide grants of up to $20,000 to high performing schools to assist and help other districts.

The current pension problems the state is facing were addressed by the Governor and he proposed a pension reform plan that would provide General Fund savings of $170 million in state payments to SERS and PSERS and would collectively provide $125 million in savings for local school districts. The reforms would not impact the benefits of retirees or current employees.

Also included in the budget proposal were several funding increases intended to promote business development and spur job creation in Pennsylvania, including an additional $4.7 million for the PA First program, $1.1 million more for Marketing to Attract Business, $600,000 in new money for World Trade PA, and an additional $500,000 for Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance (PREP).

“We will need to study this proposal diligently to ensure that all vital programs are receiving the necessary funding they need, while not placing further burdens on our taxpayers or slowing down the recovery of our struggling economy,” Senator Browne said. “We must craft a fiscally responsible budget and continue to look at every program and department line-by-line to see where we can reduce costs and/or increase efficiencies.”

The Senate’s review of the budget will formally begin on February 10th with three weeks of hearings conducted by the Senate Appropriations Committee which will conclude on February 26th. The state’s current fiscal year ends on June 30, 2014.

Contact:

Matt Moyer
(610) 366-2327