Senator Kim Ward comments on Senate approval of House Bill 2121, a fiscally responsible budget for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 that holds the line on spending, increases funding for education and school safety initiatives, and includes no new taxes.
The final spending total of $32.7 billion is just $560 million over the current year’s spending – below the rate of inflation, and well within the limits prescribed in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. It also allocates money to the state’s Rainy Day fund for the first time in more than a decade.
The budget also makes a historic investment in school safety with more than $60 million in new funding for school resource officers, security equipment and other proven methods of preventing school violence.
A significant part of the additional spending is devoted to education. The budget increases funding for Basic Education by $100 million, Pre-K Counts and Head Start by $25 million, and Special Education by $15 million. Educational Improvement Tax Credits – which help students trapped in failing schools – will also see a $25 million increase.
Higher education is also a priority in the budget. State System of Higher Education funding will increase by 3.3 percent, and funding for state-related universities will increase by 3 percent. Community colleges will also see a 3-percent boost in funding.
Additional funding is also included for the Pennsylvania State Police to train three new cadet classes, which will result in nearly 300 additional troopers.
Other highlights include additional funding for:
*Services for individuals with intellectual disabilities
*Home and community-based services for an additional 5,230 seniors and those with physical disabilities
*Child care services to an additional 1,600 children
*Home visit services for 800 families impacted by the opioid epidemic
*Career and Technical Education to ensure Pennsylvania’s workforce keeps pace with the demands of the labor market
The budget also recognizes the importance of three industries that have historically been among Pennsylvania’s most critical sectors of the economy: agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, restoring funding that the Governor’s original budget plan cut.