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Proposal increases state spending by 3.3 percent without tax hike

HARRISBURG – Citing a boost to education funding and an increase for those with intellectual disabilities, state Sen. Lloyd K. Smucker (R-13) said Tuesday that Gov. Tom Corbett’s spending proposal provides a laudable starting point for this year’s budget negotiations.

“After three years of holding the line on taxes, this budget again provides a blueprint for fiscal discipline,” Smucker said of the proposal released to the Legislature Tuesday. “While this is just the first step in a complicated budget process, I believe it will move us toward the goal of passing a balanced budget by June 30.”

Gov. Corbett unveiled his $29.4 billion budget request before a joint session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The 2014-15 proposal marks a $927 million spending increase over the current fiscal year without raising the personal income tax rate of 3.07 percent. The Governor anticipates a growth in revenue of 4.89 percent (or $1.424 billion) over the next fiscal year.

While funding for basic education does not increase in the governor’s proposal, it does raise support for public school districts by 3.8 percent (or $368.6 million) across the board. Likewise, the governor has proposed level funding for the Accountability Block Grant program, but has added $240 in block grants for schools to improve performance in reading and math by 3rd grade, support STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives and offer flexibility to provide customized instruction. The governor also asked for a $1 million allocation to provide grants to high performing schools willing to assist other districts that are struggling.

Funding for community colleges ($212 million) and state-related universities ($519 million) remains the same as the current fiscal year, but the Governor has proposed increasing special education funding (by $20 million) for the first time since the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Additionally, Gov. Corbett outlines a $22.4 million increase to reduce the waiting list for intellectual disabilities services. Part of the proposal would remove adults with intellectual disabilities from the emergency waiting list and expedite their services. Another $1.1 million would go toward serving 100 additional individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

“The governor should be commended for his ambitious education and intellectual disability initiatives,” Smucker said. “I believe his budget represents a set of responsible choices that we can build on for the future of Pennsylvania.”

Follow Senator Smucker on Twitter @SenatorSmucker

Contact: Matt Parido