House GOP crafts $31.52 billion budget that eliminates deficit and funds our schools without new taxes or borrowing
Taking up the challenge to deal with a potential $3 billion shortfall, House Republicans crafted a “smart budget” to begin the process of reinventing Pennsylvania government without raising or creating new taxes and also providing additional funding for key education and public safety programs. The budget bill, House Bill 218, passed the House today by a vote of 114 to 84, House Republican Leaders said.
“House Republicans are working to reverse the growth of government by using this opportunity to reinvent Pennsylvania government in the most efficient and effective ways – without raising taxes,” Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said. “Our budget begins the process of a government reinvention – plotting a new course for Pennsylvania, punching holes in bureaucracy and focusing on government’s core functions.”
“This budget reflects our continued commitment to controlled spending and does not rely on the governor’s proposed tax hikes that could hurt our state’s economic future,” Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said. “This plan reflects a no-tax, no-borrow budget; it does not mortgage our future, but places priorities on core government functions, especially quality education for our children.”
The budget plan contained in House Bill 218 was crafted after a thorough review of the governor’s proposal and the current state revenue situation.
According to the leaders, this budget responsibly invests in education and public safety as it provides support for essential social and human services and programs without a tax increase or any new borrowing. Total General Fund spending is $31.52 billion, which is $246 million LESS than the current budget and $815 million LESS than Gov. Tom Wolf’s $32.34 billion plan.
“We are looking to restart the budget process in Pennsylvania,” House Majority Whip Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “Ever since the Rendell Administration, we have been fighting budget deficits, meaning the state is spending more than it can pay for and Pennsylvanians just can’t afford, nor will they accept, the same old budget discussions of more taxes, more debt and more spending.
“We are using this budget to re-evaluate our priorities and focus on core functions of government, which our taxpayers expect,” he added.
Eliminating duplicative services and reducing overall costs will encourage reform and innovation, while ensuring funds are available for the core government services. The House Republican budget eliminates 58 budget “line items,” of which 60 percent were offered by the governor in his proposal.
“We appreciate Gov. Wolf taking our suggestion seriously to look at changing state government and how it operates,” Reed said. “By reducing and eliminating outdated bureaucratic expenditures, without raising taxes, we can redirect needed funding to government’s core functions like education, infrastructure, public safety and human service programs.”
The House Republican budget also reflects the governor’s proposal to merge several agencies, including four cabinet-level agencies into one. While the administration hasn’t yet briefed House members with details of its proposal to merge the Departments of Aging, Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health and Human Services into one, it will receive a thorough review.
The governor’s plan to merge the Department of Corrections with the Board of Probation and Parole is also included in House Bill 218. When the House receives the governor’s plan, it will be reviewed.
As part of the caucus initiative to reinvent government, and understanding change starts from within, House Republicans include the complete elimination of five “legislative agencies.” The functions of the legislative agencies being eliminated through the bill can be better served through other agencies or standing committees:
- Legislative Budget and Finance Committee – These functions can be transferred to the Independent Fiscal office (IFO).
- Local Government Commission – The work of this commission falls under the purview of the House Local Government Committee.
- Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee – The work of this joint legislative committee can, and should, fall under the purview of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
- Sentencing Commission – The work of the commission would be better achieved as part of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
- Center for Rural Pennsylvania – The functions of this agency would be served through the House Committee on Local Government, the state Department of Community and Economic Development, and universities.
“We are devoting $11.8 billion, or nearly 40 percent of the General Fund, to PreK-12 education through our fiscally responsible approach – without imposing new or increased taxes on hard-working Pennsylvanians or employers,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York) said. “We took a responsible approach to craft a sustainable budget.”
Reaffirming the House Republican commitment to education at all levels, House Bill 218 would help provide Pennsylvania’s students with a quality education from the youngest ages through college:
- Increases Basic Education Funding through the fair funding formula by $100 million to $5.995 billion.
- Increases early childhood funding (Pre-K Counts and Head Start) by $25 million to $221.5 million.
- Increases Special Education Funding by $25 million to $1.122 billion.
- Sets a record high $11.793 billion for PreK-12 education – in fact, with this budget, Republicans will have increased PreK-12 education by $1 billion over two years.
- Increases funding for the State System of Higher Education by 2 percent ($8.84 million).
- Increases funding for Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology by $664,000.
With this budget, Republicans will have increased PreK-12 education by $1 billion since Fiscal Year 2015-16.
“Restructuring takes time,” Saylor said. “It's going to take us a couple of years to restructure Pennsylvania completely, but this is a start.”
Representative Mike Turzai
Speaker of the House
RepTurzai.com / Facebook.com/RepTurzai / @RepTurzai
Representative Dave Reed
RepDaveReed.com / Facebook.com/RepReed / @RepReedPA
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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