Senator John R. Gordner E-Newsletter

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July 2, 2019

State Budget for Fiscal Year 2019-20 “Funds What Works”

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a responsible, bi-partisan budget for the upcoming fiscal year and presented it to Governor Tom Wolf, who quickly signed the spending plan. House Bill 790 calls for the spending of $33.977 billion, which represents a 1.8% increase over the previous fiscal year without increasing a single tax.

Major highlights include:

  • Increase in Basic Education spending of $160 million and an additional $30 million for early childhood education;
  • Investment of more than $19 million in extra funding for Agricultural line items;
  • Increase of $5 million in Library funding, for the first increase in years;
  • 10% increase in domestic violence line items;
  • 10% increase in rape and crisis intervention line items;
  • Increase of nearly $47 million in PHEAA funding; and
  • Investment of $317 million into the Commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund, to prepare for any future economic downturns.

This budget truly prioritizes the education of our young people, Agriculture – our number 1 industry, and the most vulnerable among us.

School Safety Is a Priority

The General Assembly approved new school safety measures, focusing on the behavioral health of students and better meeting the needs of individual school districts. Senate Bill 144 was signed into law as Act 18 of 2019.

Several of the components of SB 144 address trauma-informed education, which studies the effect of traumatic events on students. As part of the bill, the School Safety and Security Committee would be required to develop model plans to help school districts implement best management practices for trauma-informed education.

The legislation provides for $60 million in funding for the School Safety and Security Grant Program, which was created last year. The legislation makes improvements in the program to ensure more schools receive the funds they need to keep students safe.

In addition, the legislation requires schools to create a threat assessment team to ensure students who could potentially pose a safety risk are able to receive necessary evaluations and treatment. It also encourages greater cooperation between schools and county agencies in determining the best course of action for at-risk students.

Protecting The State’s Top Industry – Agriculture

Pennsylvania’s 59,000 farm families manage more than 7.7 million acres of farmland, and the agriculture industry generates more than $7.5 billion in cash receipts annually.

In February, Governor Wolf proposed a $4 million cut to critical programs in the Department of Agriculture. Senate Republicans not only worked to restore those cuts, but also boosted funding for agriculture by more than $19 million. The new funding will support a variety of new programs championed by Senate Republicans as part of the Farming First initiative, as well as measures supported by members of the House and the Governor.

Some of the highlights include new programs to support youth in agriculture, meet the growing demand for specialty crops, improve disaster response, provide low-interest loans for the implementation of agricultural and conservation best management practices, boost livestock and consumer health, assist with agricultural business development and succession planning, and bolster the Healthy Farms Healthy Schools program.

Building Stronger and Safer Communities

Senate Republicans have advocated broader changes to the criminal justice system to reduce prison costs and help more non-violent offenders find jobs, thereby reducing the crime rate and cutting costs to taxpayers. Many of the efforts that have been completed in recent years are already bearing fruit. The Department of Corrections will only see a 1.3 percent increase in the new budget. This stands in stark contrast to the annual cost hikes of $100 million or more that taxpayers endured just a few short years ago.

The budget also builds on the ongoing efforts to protect crime victims. In addition to the victims’ rights bills approved by the Senate and sent to the Governor in recent weeks, funding for rape crisis and domestic violence services is increased in the budget by 10 percent.

The budget takes another important step in addressing Pennsylvania’s growing heroin and opioid epidemic by investing an additional $793,000 in drug and alcohol programs. A total of $47.3 million is dedicated to these programs overall. The additional funding, coupled with the package of bills approved by the Senate recently to limit the number of state residents at risk for addiction, will play a crucial role in the battle against opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

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