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Corbett discusses jobs, education, human services

Published February 04. 2014 01:38PM

Gov. Tom Corbett planned to reveal spending plans for education, jobs, and human services in his "State of the Budget" address today.

The speech, Corbett's fourth since taking office and the final one of his term, introduces the $29.4 billion 2014-2015 budget. Lawmakers will begin to craft the fiscal blueprint on Feb. 10, and a final budget must be adopted by June 30.

Although Corbett is not expected to go into details, pensions for state and school employees could be a budget-buster. The Commonwealth faces about $610 million in new pension costs next year. Last year, Corbett's proposal to cut benefits fell flat.

The Corbett administration has released some information about the proposed budget, including a $2.2 million increase in funding for rape crisis and domestic violence programs, and $10 million more for the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program, about $22 million for programs for the intellectually disabled, and more than $200 million to improve state parks and forests.

Corbett is also expected to increase basic education funding by about $200 million.

In 2011-2012, Corbett cut education funding by $1 billion in an effort to close a $4.2 billion budget gap. The cuts were not restored in the 2012-2013 budget. Corbett has said the drop was due to the end of the federal economic stimulus program.

Corbett has said schools received historically high funding last year, $5.5 billion. The amount includes money for school employee's pensions.

Corbett had campaigned on a promise to not raise taxes. It was not clear as of early today whether his budget speech would include details of how the additional funding would come about.

Budget Secretary Charles Zogby has said the state may see a $1.4 billion deficit by the end of 2015.

Corbett has been on the campaign trail for reelection. Among the challenges he faces are record-low approval ratings and the state's lack of job growth.

Although the unemployment rate fell in December fell to 6.9 percent, its lowest in about five years, the Commonwealth still ranks 41st in the nation for projected job growth, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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