PA House and Senate Approve 2012-13 Budget
The Pennsylvania House and Senate have approved a 2012-13 state budget. Total spending will increase by roughly $500 million over Governor Tom Corbett's proposal, from $27.139 billion to $27.656 billion.
Spending will remain below the budgeted 2008-09 levels, despite four years of recession-driven increases in demand for services. This means that for the fifth straight year most state services will have to make do with less.
The plan largely resembles a budget bill passed by the Senate last month, with a few exceptions.
Block Grants for None
One of the Governor’s programmatic priorities was to begin to block grant funding to local governments, including school districts and county human services. Block grants to school districts would create a heftier per student funding “backpack” for students moving to charter or non-public schools through a voucher, a key gubernatorial priority. Many viewed the human services block grant as a trial for a broader Medicaid waiver that could limit funding and enrollment for health care services.
Both block grants are gone from this budget. The Senate rejected the school district block grant back in May, and under the leadership of state Representative Gene DiGirolamo, the House held firm in its opposition to the human services block grant.
The budget restores the county services to their original lines, but the victory came at a price, a 10% cut to each of the seven human services lines, including county mental health services, homeless assistance and services for people with intellectual disabilities.
There appears to be agreement to develop a pilot program on the human services block grants, largely following the outline suggested by Representative DiGirolamo on Tuesday.
Another Knock for the Poorest
The General Assistance Program is gone from this budget. This program provides a modest, time-limited monthly benefit to 68,000 temporarily disabled adults. The cash grant line is cut by $152 million to just over $60 million in income support for very poor people. Notices will go out this week to individuals that their grants will end on June 30.
Over the years, General Assistance has provided a bridge to a better life for thousands of Pennsylvanians dealing with a temporary health issue, completing treatment or escaping an abuser.
Accountability Block Grants Survive
Deep education cuts enacted last year remain largely intact. Basic education funding is increased slightly, by $49 million, over last year. Accountability block grants (supporting full-day kindergarten and other early childhood programs) will be flat-funded at $100 million.
Higher Education Held Harmless
This plan restores all of the Governor’s proposed cuts to higher education, leaving Penn State, Pitt, Temple, Lincoln, and the State System of Higher Education at current year levels. Higher education is still recovering from the 20% or so cut to those institutions enacted last year. Negotiators said the universities have agreed to limit tuition increases this year, so parents should get a break.
So Much for Bipartisanship
Bipartisan amendments added to the House version of the budget bill in June were largely wiped out, including additional funding for the Department of Environmental Protection and child care services.
More Money for Legislative Salaries
The proposed budget restores some funding cut from the Governor’s office and includes a $300,000 increase in the line for senators' salaries and a $1.4 million increase in the line for House members' salaries.
Want to learn more? Download the following documents to view more details.
PBPC Budget Tables
Legislative Budget Tables
2012-13 Budget: Education Funding by School District (including Basic Ed & ABG)
2012-13 Budget: Education Funding by School District (including Basic Ed, ABG & Distressed School Funding)