State budget passes
State senators David G. Argall, John Yudichak and Lisa Boscola, and state representatives Doyle Heffley and Jerry Knowles have weighed in on the new $28.375 billion state budget. All five released prepared statements saying they believe the spending plan is a good one.
The 2013-2014 budget was approved Sunday by a bipartisan vote of 33 to 17.
"I'm pleased to see us pass the third-in-a-row on-time state budget that continues to hold the line on state taxes," Argall said.
He said that many of his town hall meetings, office visits, emails and letters to his local offices revolve around a similar message from local residents: Control the growth of government and its regulations.
"This balanced budget holds spending increases to only 2.3 percent," Argall said. "I'm pleased to see that we can provide increased aid to schools in the 29th Senate District the most they have ever received from the state government."
Also included in the budget is an increase for small business development and related efforts to assist private sector job creation.
"The reality is, in this economic climate, no state budget can adequately fund all state priorities, but this spending plan does get it right in a number of areas critically important to the residents of my district in Northeastern Pennsylvania," Yudichak said. "First and foremost, the budget blunts the administration's assault on education by dedicating $120 million in new funds to basic education and increasing funding for higher education."
"The budget also makes great strides in public safety, and continues our fight against the rise of violent crime in northeastern Pennsylvania," he said.
"While we have made great strides in community safety and gang awareness through our Operation Gang Up initiative with Congressman Lou Barletta the mobile street crime unit will give cities like Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre the forces and expertise we need to keep violence, crime and drugs out of our neighborhoods," Yudichak said.
"After frustratingly leading the state in unemployment rate for over three years now, this budget offers a glimmer of hope to Northeastern Pennsylvania families by advancing the Medicaid expansion that will allow more than 500,000 Pennsylvanians to gain access to health care; protect the financial health of our hospitals; and create an estimated 40,000 new jobs in the Commonwealth," he added.
Boscola (D-Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton) said the state is making targeted investments that should help spur economic development and lessen the school funding crunch.
"While no budget is ever perfect or satisfies everyone, I am pleased that we were able to leverage state dollars for key jobs and economic development initiatives. The budget also makes a substantive investment in our schools and colleges," she said.
"I supported a tax code bill (House Bill 465) that would establish a new Innovate in PA Tax Credit program that will provide $175 million for early-stage venture capital investment through the Ben Franklin Technology Partners Program, the Venture Investment Program and the Life Sciences Greenhouses," she said, adding that a fiscal analysis of the credit program reveals a 2.37-to-1 return on investment.
"The new budget will also make it possible for law enforcement to take a more aggressive approach to crime. Additional personnel and funding has been allocated for the State Police; more dollars were earmarked for the Attorney General, including a substantial increase in the Child Predator Interception Unit; and $2.5 million was provided for the Attorney General's innovative Mobile Street Crime Unit," she said.
Heffley (R-Carbon) touted the budget's education funding.
"The five school districts located within the 122nd Legislative District in Carbon County will receive a funding increase of more than $1.1 million under the final 2013-14 state budget," he said Rep.
"I am pleased that we were able to pass an on-time $28.376 billion plan that prioritizes the investment in basic education and restores funding to core functions of our government, including human services and the environment," he said Heffley. "Act 13 of 2012 helped freed up nearly $150 million in revenue that was used in other line items of the budget and I am pleased that Pennsylvania is starting to feel the benefits of the Marcellus Shale drilling development."
Heffley said the final budget also focuses on public safety, health and human services, and the environment by allocating funding for 290 new state troopers; increasing the attorney general office's funding by 23 percent to be used for local drug task forces; apportioning $26 million to reduce waiting lists for services to persons with disabilities; allotting $8.4 million in funding for county conservation districts from both the budget and impact fee revenue; and increasing the Department of Health funding by $1.5 million for issues such as, Cystic Fibrosis, hemophilia, sickle cell, trauma prevention, epilepsy support, ALS support services, Tourette syndrome support, and biotechnology research.
"This is a fiscally responsible and sustainable budget that will keep moving Pennsylvania forward," said Heffley.
Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill) voted in favor of the spending plan. The overall spending in the budget reflects a 2.3 percent increase over last year's budget. The plan falls below the Taxpayer Bill of Rights allowable growth rate of 2.54 percent by $59 million.
"While I believe this budget isn't perfect, it once again will not spend more than we're projected to bring in throughout the 2013-14 fiscal year," Knowles said. "The budget provides taxpayers with the central government services, such as education, job creation, government transparency, law enforcement and human services."
Knowles said the budget includes a $122 million increase in funding to our state's basic education system, establishing a record high of $10 billion total state dollars invested in K-12 education the most state money ever appropriated.
All Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities will again receive level funding in this year's budget. It also continues the $50 million in additional lottery funds for expanded home and community-based services for senior citizens, and adds $10 million for long-term senior care. Unlike the budgets by the previous administrations, this new budget was passed on time for the third year in a row, and will take effect on Monday, July 1.