Legislators react to state budget proposal


Senator Lisa Baker

Senator Lisa Baker had the following reaction to Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget:

"This budget seems a more positive starting point than has been the case in recent years. There may be less debate over funding levels for crucial responsibilities such as education and human services, but the sources of revenue the governor has identified to support spending increases will be highly controversial.

The areas in education he has targeted for additional investment are significant and sensible choices. To have those numbers hold up through the final budget will require hard decisions about changes and reforms the governor proposes.

This budget provides extra funding for programs important to our area: health care in rural and underserved areas, home and community care for seniors and individuals with intellectual disabilities, increased state troopers in the field, and county fairs and agricultural preservation.

It is encouraging that the governor has finally thrown his support behind an overdue expansion of transportation funding. His recommendation will be thoroughly reviewed to see if it is sufficient, what the impact will be on motorists and businesses, what level of new work will result, and where those projects are located."

Rep. Mike Peifer (R-139th)

Rep. Mike Peifer (R-Monroe/Pike/Wayne) said the 2013-14 state budget proposal offered by Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday reflects the many challenges facing the Commonwealth as it continues on the slow path toward economic recovery.

"I am encouraged the state is moving in the right direction, but we must continue to make sound budget decisions that properly fund the core responsibilities of government," said Peifer, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which is charged with crafting the state budget. "Education and transportation are at the top of that priority list, and the governor has provided us a good blueprint for negotiations on these important issues."

The $28.44 billion budget proposal, unveiled before a joint session of the General Assembly, invests an additional $338 million in public education, including $90 million more in basic education funding. Funding for special education and higher education would remain the same as in the current fiscal year. The budget also allots $100 million for the Accountability Block Grant program, which provides flexible funding to school districts things such as pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten programs.

During the budget address, the governor unveiled his proposal to boost funding for highway and bridge repairs and mass transit. The focus of the proposal is a phase-out of the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax over a five-year period. He also proposes to change vehicle registration to a two-year cycle, rather than annual, and driver licenses would be valid for six years, rather than four. The actual cost to drivers will not change.

Additionally, the governor is proposing funding for 290 new state troopers and 90 dispatchers to boost public safety. He also is proposing an additional $20 million investment to provide services for more people with intellectual disabilities.

"As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I look forward to the opportunity to review the governor’s proposal and to hear from the heads of our state agencies about their budget needs," Peifer said.

Budget hearings begin on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and will continue through March 7. A final budget must be adopted by the end of the current fiscal year, June 30.

For more information about the governor’s budget proposal, visit www.RepPeifer.com.

State Rep. Frank Farina (D-115th)

State Rep. Frank Farina, D-Lackawanna/Wayne, is angered by the budget proposal Gov. Tom Corbett presented before a joint session of the House and Senate today.

"The governor has promised us leadership on education, transportation and more," Farina said. "Where is the leadership?

"The governor took credit for continuing to not raise taxes in Pennsylvania, but that is just a shell game. What he should take credit for is passing the buck down to local taxing agencies, who had no choice but to raise taxes to survive. Counties, communities, and especially, school districts, have been forced to continue to raise their taxes to provide the revenue they need to survive.

"Virtually every school district in the commonwealth has been given the draconian choices of either raising taxes, reducing the number of teachers, or cutting programs, just to survive. Many districts have had to combine all three. Yet a billion dollars in education cuts to provide a balanced budget is something the governor is proud of?

"I was also anxious to hear his long-promised plan for transportation infrastructure funding. Once again, though, the words do not fit the reality. Our bridges are, on average, more than 50 years old, and instead of a real plan, taxes on fuel are shuffled around, so drivers will pay more and oil companies will pay less, and we will still be $4 billion short of providing safe roads and bridges."

Following the governor’s budget address, both the state House and Senate will hold public budget hearings and negotiations between both houses and the governor will begin.

"As the budget battle develops, I will be a voice for our communities and for all who believe the state should raise and spend money in fair and equitable ways for the good of all the residents," Farina said.