For a change, a clear path for a new Pa. budget

Tony Romeo
June 19, 2018 - 1:33 pm

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — In another sign of a painless budget season this year, the state House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday morning unanimously approved a new state spending plan with no new taxes that provides more money for education — and for school safety. 

It’s something pretty rare in recent years: a budget proposal apparently cruising toward final action by the end-of-the-month deadline. 

In years past, when the Republican-controlled committee would pass a budget bill, it was Joe Markosek, the ranking Democrat, who led the opposition. Tuesday, Markosek said state government hasn’t always helped those most in need as much as he wanted.

“But I think this year we are making progress to reverse that and move in a different direction, in a more positive direction relative to a lot folks out there," he said. 

Markosek cites more funding to reduce the backlog of services for the intellectually disabled and to address the opioid crisis. The budget passed by House Appropriations increases spending by less than 2 percent, but it provides an extra $100 million for basic education and $20 million more for pre-K, while providing $70 million for schools to address safety issues. There’s also a 3 percent increase for higher education.

Republican Dave Reed, the House majority leader, on how the safety dollars may be distributed: “Our vision is something somewhat similar to how we do it with volunteer fire companies, where they fill out the application, they say how they’re going to use the dollars from a list of choices.”

In fact, revenues are strong enough that lawmakers expect a surplus in the current fiscal year — with half of that, or about $25 million, being put in a “rainy day” fund.