State Budget Proposal Unveiled
By Rep. Greg Lucas (R-Erie/Crawford)
The governor on Feb. 5 delivered his budget proposal before a joint session of the state House and Senate. Before outlining some of the specifics in the proposal, it is important to mention that this is just a starting point. The Legislature will review the proposal in the weeks and months ahead and then negotiate a final budget with the administration.
The governor’s budget would spend more than $28.4 billion, representing an increase of 2.4 percent compared to the current state budget. State revenues are only expected to increase by 1.5 percent during the next budget year.
His budget proposal would increase funding for basic education – which supports students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade – by $90 million. Funding for higher education would remain level. In exchange for stable funding, the administration was able to secure commitments from taxpayer-supported universities across the Commonwealth to hold tuition increases to a minimum.
Funding for prisons and corrections would increase by $60 million.
The governor’s budget proposal would increase spending on welfare programs by more than $300 million, or 3 percent, for a total of nearly $11 billion. That means that for every $3 spent in the state budget, more than $1 would be spent on welfare programs.
Under the governor’s proposal, more than $1.5 billion would be used to pay off existing debts. The Commonwealth makes regular payments on its debt the same way that citizens make payments on their credit cards. This $1.5 billion represents the payments necessary to pay off money that was already spent in the past. At $1.5 billion, debt payments represent approximately 4 percent of the entire state budget.
Not all departments would see a funding increase compared to the current budget. For example, the governor has proposed cutting funding for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs by $3 million.
The Department of Agriculture also would suffer an $11.7 million cut under the governor’s proposal. Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry. Funding for some programs – including agricultural promotion, and food marketing and research – would be completely eliminated if the governor’s proposal was enacted into law.
The House Appropriations Committee and its counterpart in the Senate will conduct hearings to dig into the details of each specific department’s budget proposal. Those hearings and the feedback that legislators receive from constituents will help to shape the final budget agreement that will be enacted later this year.
For more information about the governor’s budget proposal, visit my website at www.RepLucas.com.
Greg Lucas Reports is a weekly editorial from Rep. Greg Lucas, 5th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and published by EdinboroOnline.com in an effort to keep the citizens of the area informed on matters of importance to them. Rep. Lucas can be reached for further comment or input at his Edinboro Pa office 814-734-2793, or his Linesville, PA office 814-683-5550. www.replucas.com