PA House Approves $27.3 Billion Budget

 *UPDATE* – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 109-92 Tuesday, May 24 to approve a state budget that sets spending at $27.3 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year — the same amount proposed in Governor Tom Corbett’s March budget plan.

The budget cuts $1 billion from public schools and reduces Governor Corbett’s budget by $471 million for health and human services for women, children and people with disabilities.  It fails to enact a drilling tax on natural gas and does not use the growing surplus that is anticipated at the end of the current fiscal year.  In contrast, Senate Republican leaders have suggested that they are open to using at least some of the surplus to further reduce cuts to basic and higher education.

Philadelphia GOP Representatives Dennis O’Brien and John Taylor joined all Democrats (except Representative Kenyatta Johnson, who was absent) to vote against the bill. All other Republicans (except Representative Nick Miccarelli, who was absent) voted in favor of the bill.

All eyes will be on the Senate, which will likely take up the bill in early June and move the process closer to a resolution.

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On May 10, HB 1485 (Rep. William Adolph, R-165), the General Appropriation Act of 2011, was introduced.  The bill in its original form represented the Governor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2011-2012.  But soon thereafter on May 11, the House Appropriations Committee amended HB 1485 to eliminate the Governor’s budget proposal and replace it with the House Republican Caucus budget proposalThe revised budget offered by House Republicans restores some of the significant cuts to K-12 and higher education as proposed by the Governor.

HB 1485 as amended reduces the cuts proposed by Governor Corbett by adding $100 million to basic education funding, $100 million to the Accountability Block Grant Program; $43 million to the School Employees Social Security line item.  It also adds $3.4 million for Job Training Program as well as $1.1 million for Community Education Councils.  Under the amended version of HB 1485, funding for the following line items is reduced: Information and Technology Improvement ($1.7 million), PA Assessment ($25 million), School Nutrition Incentive Program ($739,000), and School Employees’ Retirement ($10 million). 

Altogether, the House Republican Budget reduces the proposed cuts to school districts from about $1.1 billion to less than $900 million, still an unprecedented cut in state support to school districts.

The alternative budget proposed by House Republicans also reduces, but does not eliminate, some of the cuts to higher education proposed by Governor Corbett.  It adds $380 million for higher education over the Governor’s budget.  Specifically, the House Republicans increase funding to the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) by $195 million over the Governor’s plan—reducing the cuts to the SSHE from 54% to 15%.  The House Republicans increase funding to the State-Related Universities (Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln) by $180 million—reducing the cuts proposed by the Governor from 51% to 25%.   

The Governor’s Budget proposes $15 million (a 50 percent cut from last year’s $30.1 million) for Institutional Assistance Grants(IAGs), administered by Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), which provides aid to private colleges and universities to assist with the costs of enrollment of low to middle income students.  The House Republican Caucus budget would fund IAG’s at $22.5 million, a 50 percent increase over the Governor’s plan.   In 2010-2011 when the IAG’s were funded at $30.1 million, the grants averaged $722 per student.  Under the Corbett’s proposal ($15 million) private colleges and universities would receive grants in the amount of $361 per student.  Under the House Republican version ($22.5 million) grants to private colleges and universities would be $542 per student. 

The House Republican Caucus budget and the Governor’s proposed budget for PHEAA grants to students propose a 2 percent decrease from FY 2010-2011 level from $388 million to $381 million. 

To view the impact on school districts, click here.

To view the overall House Republican Caucus budget, as prepared by the House Democratic Appropriations Committee, click here.

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