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Senate Passes $27.65 Billion Budget

As expected, the legislature’s post-primary return has brought with it a flurry of activity on the state budget. The Senate Republicans previewed a $27.65 billion budget on Monday. The bill was unanimous approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, and passed the full Senate by a vote of 39-8 Wednesday afternoon. The Senate package (SB 1466) would spend $500 more than Governor Corbett’s initial $27.15 billion budget proposal. House Republicans and the Corbett Administration have both signaled that the proposal represents the “ceiling” for debates that will unfold over the coming weeks.

Budget Secretary Charles Zogby had previously stated that the state cannot afford the Senate plan, and that even a modest increase is “not sustainable beyond the 2012-13 fiscal year,” and “would move the state farther away from the goal of achieving long-term structural balance.” He noted that the state mandated cost increases over the next two years were more than $1 billion above projected revenue growth.

Senate Leadership maintains that this level of spending increase is indeed sustainable. Senate Appropriation Chair Jake Corman (R-Centre) said, “I fail to see how a less-than-2-percent spending increase takes us from fiscal responsibility to unsustainability, as they claim.”

“This plan does not create a single new program. It does not raise a single tax,” said Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware). “This is a responsible, sustainable state budget.”

Restored areas of funding in the Senate plan include:

$245 million in funding for higher education – $147 million for state-related universities, $83 million for state-owned universities, $15 million for PHEAA;

$50 million for cash-strapped school districts;

$14 million in early childhood education;

$168 million in mental health and retardation services;

$18 million to the Keystone Conservation Fund.

During Tuesday’s Appropriations Committee meeting, the Capital Budget Act of 2012-13 (Senate Bill 1480) was also unanimously reported as committed.

Click here to view line-item spreadsheets of the Senate GOP proposal.
Click here to view House Bill 1466
Click here to view Governor Corbettt’s proposed budget.