House Republicans Introduce New Budget Proposal; Making Education A Priority Over Welfare
Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware), House Republican Appropriations Chairman, introduced a budget proposal for the 2011-2012 fiscal year that would restore a half-billion dollars to basic and higher education that was reduced in Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget plan. “We are committed to easing what we believe was an unfair burden placed on local school districts, colleges and universities,” Adolph said.
The proposal crafted by the House Republican Caucus does not exceed $27.3 Billion and has no tax increases. The $27.3 Billion represents a 3 percent reduction compared to the Fiscal Year 2010-2011 budget which was supplemented by nearly $3 billion in federal stimulus dollars distributed throughout the state budget. The areas which received the largest percentage of stimulus Money: Welfare with $1.7 billion, Education with $1.1 billion, and corrections $180 million.
Under the House Republican proposal, K-12 education would receive a $210 Million net funding increase when compared to the governor’s budget. The proposal would allot $100 Million for the highly successful Accountability Block Grant program that provides school districts with flexible funding often used for Pre-k programs, full day kindergarten, and tutoring programs. The House Republican budget also redirects an additional $100 million back into the Basic Education Funding line item, the primary funding stream for all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania.
“Restoring this funding for basic education demonstrates our commitment to preparing Pennsylvania’s youth for a successful future as well as the legislature’s dedication to controlling local property taxes,” Adolph said. “There are only two ways to limit the growth of local school property taxes: financial support from the state and efficient management by local school administrators. This commitment to funding education will relieve the pressure to raise property taxes as our economy slowly to recovers.”
The House Republican budget also restores substantial funding for higher education. In the House Republican Budget, higher education receives $387 million in additional funding, of that, the budget dedicates $195 million to the 14 state-owned universities that make up The State System of Higher Education. Gov. Corbett proposed funding higher education at 53 percent of FY10-11 levels. We raise that to 85 percent of FY10-11 funding levels.
State related universities (Penn State, Temple, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University) will receive an additional $184 Million, which is75 percent of FY10-11 funding levels.
“As the economy improves, businesses will expand in states that have a skilled workforce,” Adolph said. “Making more funding available for higher education will ensure more students will be prepared for the high-tech jobs of tomorrow. This is an investment in our kids, our economy, and an investment in our state’s future.
To find the money necessary to make education a priority, House Republicans instituted several strategies to improve efficiency in all departments, identified further cost savings in the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), and more equitably distributed the fiscal impact caused by limited revenue and the loss of federal stimulus dollars.
In March of 2009, Governor Rendell’s Secretary for DPW, Estelle Richman, testified that there is a known error rate within DPW of 4 percent which was also certified by the federal Center for Medicare Services in Washington, D.C. House Republicans applied this more conservative estimate and reduced DPW program lines according to this 4-percent error rate. The total departmental reduction for DPW is $471 Million which still represents a 1.3 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2010-2011 funding levels.
More savings were identified within DPW by instituting co-pays for transportation programs and adjusting child care program co-pays, increased use of generic drugs, and the implementation of new welfare reform legislation that will reduce fraud and abuse in Medical assistance programs. Projected growth estimates in some DPW programs were also revaluated and adjusted.
All general administrative department lines were initially reduced by 10 percent to more equitably distribute the fiscal impact caused by the loss of federal stimulus dollars. The Republican budget proposal also eliminates additional unfilled vacancies across all departments.
“These adjustments to DPW are conservative and nowhere near the reductions that would result from a 14 percent error rate identified by others looking at DPW operations. House Republicans meticulously studied DPW’s budget and eliminated discretionary spending, targeted documented waste and abuse and crafted a budget that ensures those who need important safety net services are the ones who are receiving them,” said Adolph.
Recognizing more equity was needed to deal with the fiscal reality of losing $3 Billion of federal stimulus funds, the Legislature reduced its own allocation by $ 15.3 Million.
“Reducing the Legislature’s appropriation to make funds available for important priorities like early education and providing students with access to higher education was an easy decision,” Adolph said. “The legislature, like every other department, must do more with less.”
The House Republican proposal will be considered in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, May 11th and by the House of Representatives the week of May 23rd.
“This proposal is the House Republican’s effort to improve upon the proposal currently on the table by embracing the input from members in the House of Representatives and residents of Pennsylvania,” Adolph said. “We recognize that budget negotiations are ongoing and details are subject to change, particularly when the Senate unveils their budget proposal.
“This is another step to ensure the legislature passes a budget on-time.”
State Representative William Adolph
165th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Mike Stoll