(HARRISBURG) – The Pennsylvania State Senate has passed a responsible, bi-partisan spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, according to Senator John R. Gordner (R-27).
House Bill 218 was approved by a vote of 43-7 earlier this morning. It spends $31.99 billion, which represents a $54.3 million (0.2%) increase from the previous fiscal year. This is $650 million less than the amount contained in Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed budget in February.
“Times are tough, economically, and the taxpayers demand that we make equally tough, fiscally-responsible choices in order to craft a balanced budget and live within our means,” said Senator Gordner. “I believe that this budget meets those standards.”
A major highlight of HB 218 is a higher level of funding for education, showing the General Assembly’s commitment to preparing our youth for the future. Basic education receives an extra $100 million and $50 million is restored to the pupil transportation line that Governor Tom Wolf initially proposed to cut. Further, it includes an extra $25 million for Pre-K Counts, as well as the same amount of an increase for Special Education. In all, PreK-12 funding will increase to $11.8 billion, which is a historic level. Further, SB 218 includes a modest 2% increase in state funding for the State System for Higher Education, including Bloomsburg University.
The spending plan also contains a commitment to advance economic development efforts across the state. One of these highlights is a $12 million appropriation for a new program championed by Governor Wolf called Manufacture PA, which is intended to help support job creation in the manufacturing sector. It also maintains funding for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.
“I was pleased to lead the fight for the continued funding of the Ben Franklin line item,” added Senator Gordner. “This program has been vital to the process of spurring innovation and development in the technology sector across the state.”
HB 218 also contains provisions that further streamline government and make operations more efficient and cost-effective. This includes the merger of the current Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole into one single entity, saving tens of millions of dollars in state spending annually. In addition, a process has been implemented to thoroughly examine a potential merger of the Departments of Health and Human Services, which could result in significant additional savings. The process will ensure that the General Assembly fully considers stakeholder input and reviews a full implementation plan prior to making the long-term decision on the unification of these two Departments. A previous plan, presented by Governor Tom Wolf, would have also included the Departments of Aging and Drug and Alcohol Programs as part of a larger merger. Under the blueprint set forth in HB 218, those two agencies will remain untouched.
The measure now goes to the House of Representatives, which is expected to pass the bill and send it to Governor Tom Wolf for his signature.
CONTACT: Mike Stephens (717) 787-8928