By Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie)
I am pleased to report that the General Assembly and the governor have agreed to a state budget and passed it well in advance of the June 30 deadline. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which is instrumental in the creation and negotiations involving the yearly spending plan, I was pleased with how this year’s budget came together and the areas in which we were able to prioritize additional funding, all without any tax increases.
Specifically, the 2018-19 budget focuses increased spending on public safety, education and saving for the future. The $32.7 billion budget was able to meet the state’s financial obligations while giving more financial support to certain areas of the budget due to a robust economy that has elevated state revenue returns.
Basically, with the economy doing well and unemployment at record lows, the state is capturing more sales taxes, more income taxes and more business taxes.
In terms of education, the budget creates a new $60 million block grant program for schools to institute stronger safety measures; increases funding for basic, special and pre-K education by $140 million; boosts higher education, which includes state-related universities, State System of Higher Education schools and community colleges, by at least 3 percent; and dedicates an additional $30 million for career and technical education.
Every school in the 4th Legislative District will see a funding increase. It is also encouraged that the state’s higher education institutions use their funding increase to hold off on any anticipated tuition increases.
Also included in the budget is an increase of $4 million for EMS agencies; funding to train an additional 285 state police troopers; money to serve an additional 965 people living with intellectual disabilities; and funds to provide services to approximately 800 families affected by the opioid epidemic. Money is also being directed to combat and treat those affected by Lyme disease. This is an important new funding item since Pennsylvania has had more recorded cases of Lyme disease than any other state in the nation.
This budget has many positives, including setting aside money in the state’s Rainy Day Fund for the first time in over a decade. When times are good, we need to take advantage and save money for possible future times of need. I was glad to have a savings component included in this year’s budget agreement.
For more information on the 2018-19 state budget, go to PAHouseGOP.com
Representative Curt Sonney
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman