Appropriations Hearings Wrap Up on State Budget Proposal
4/5/2011

By Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie)

 

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve spent three weeks in March participating in more than 90 hours of discussion and debate about Gov. Tom Corbett’s state budget proposal.

 

These hearings included secretaries from Commonwealth departments, as well as chiefs of various state agencies and officials from our public institutions of higher education.

 

The centerpiece of these hearings was the $27.3 billion budget proposal that Corbett unveiled on March 8. The total spend number is a 3.1 percent reduction from the 2010-11 budget. This budget reflects our current economic reality and does not place an undue financial burden on taxpayers. It does not call for any new tax increases or fees, thereby reflecting the needs of our citizens.

 

Unfortunately, this budget proposal represents a lot of reductions in many of the programs about which we care. As you well know, much of the feedback across Pennsylvania has focused on education, and many communities are worried that a reduction in education spending could impact our children’s quality of education. That is also a concern for me.

 

Corbett’s education budget proposal accounts for the loss of federal stimulus dollars and resets basic education funding to 2008-09, pre-stimulus levels. It provides resources for a child’s basic education while reshaping the system to put more control into the hands of families and local school districts. Local flexibility and mandate relief have long been one of our goals, and our legislative record attests to this.

 

However, this budget plan wasn’t without considerable concerns from my colleagues and me. A great deal of the testimony and debate during the week of March 28 centered on public education and welfare. It’s perplexing to me, as well as to many others on the committee and in the House and Senate, why funding is increasing for welfare programs and not for education.

 

As a result of studies and audits by Auditor General Jack Wagner, we know that there is a considerable level of fraud and abuse within the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), one of the fastest-growing and most expensive departments under the previous administration. Wagner has outlined several cost-saving measures in his audit of DPW, and we have been working for a number of years on a package of bills aimed at reforming the welfare system to prevent fraud and ensure only those people who truly need and deserve benefits receive them.

 

It is important to note that the budget proposal that currently sits before us will likely NOT be the final budget document. The secretaries of Education, Public Welfare and the Budget – and Gov. Corbett himself – all acknowledged that there will need to be some necessary shifting of funding. At this point, it’s too early to say how much shifting will occur.

 

Please know that, in addition to hammering out the final details of the budget, we are committed to passing a responsible budget by our deadline of June 30. That is one of our top priorities for this session.

 

For more information about the budget or any other legislative topic, please visit my website at RepSonney.com or visit me on Facebook at Facebook.com/RepSonney.

 

State Representative Curt Sonney

4th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact:  Scott Little

slittle@pahousegop.com
717.260.6137

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