HARRISBURG – Lancaster County Senators Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13) supported final passage of a 2018-19 state budget today that is on-time and holds the overall growth in state spending below the rate of inflation.
The $32.7 billion budget spends just 1.7 percent more than the current year’s spending plan. Lawmakers cut more than $270 million from the Governor’s original spending request.
After several years of lawmakers grappling with budget deficits of a billion dollars or more, both Senators praised the fiscally responsible approach to this year’s budget, including setting aside more than $70 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
“I am thankful that we were able to reach a bipartisan compromise and pass a budget before the June 30 deadline without threatening any critical government programs or services. It is encouraging to see both sides set aside partisanship and approach negotiations with a common goal of creating the best possible product for the people of Pennsylvania. This is exactly how we are supposed to govern,” Aument said. “Passing a fiscally responsible budget this year is an absolute necessity in the face of the daunting challenges we will face in the years to come.”
“The fact that we can pass a budget this year that meets the core functions of government without a tax increase is a testament to the fiscally conservative approach we have taken to every budget during Governor Wolf’s tenure,” Martin said. “If we had gone along with every one of Governor Wolf’s proposed spending plans, taxpayers would be paying at least $5 billion more in taxes this year. I am grateful that money remains in taxpayers’ wallets instead of being lost to government bureaucracy. That is the main reason why we were able to put money into the Rainy Day Fund this year instead of being forced to raise taxes or cut funding for programs that help vulnerable Pennsylvanians.” Martin added, “Though I’m disappointed there are major reforms not included that we have been advocating for but we will continue to fight to get those done.”
The budget included an additional $100 million for Basic Education, $25 million more for Pre-K Counts and Head Start, and $15 million in new funding for Special Education.
An additional $30 million was also dedicated for Career and Technical Education to ensure Pennsylvania’s workforce keeps pace with the demands of the labor market. A proposal Aument introduced that would make the state’s continuing education requirements for Career and Technical Education teachers more competitive with other states was also approved by the Senate and is expected to be sent to the Governor for enactment.
“There is a growing demand for skilled labor positions throughout the state, and these positions offer a vital opportunity for many young people to earn a family-sustaining income,” Aument said. “While higher education is a great option for many students, career and technical education offers another pathway that is a great example of how to build an ‘opportunity society’ in which all people, regardless of their position in life, have a chance to experience earned success.”
The budget also includes a $25 million increase in Educational Improvement Tax Credits (EITC) to provide new educational opportunities to students trapped in failing schools.
“The new funding for the EITC program is extremely encouraging. Every child deserves a quality education, no matter where that education takes place,” Aument said. “The additional EITC funding will help make sure more students can benefit from a strong education system regardless of whether they utilize our public schools or they choose an alternative option.”
School safety was also a main point of emphasis in the budget. More than $60 million in new funding will be dedicated to grant programs to improve school safety, including hiring school security personnel and installing equipment such as metal detectors to deter school violence. Martin sponsored a bill that is on its way to the Governor that would create an anonymous school threat reporting system. He also introduced a Senate Resolution calling for a comprehensive study on ways to prevent school violence.
“Students should be able to focus on learning, growth and achievement in the classroom in a safe environment. I am thankful that we are taking the issue of school safety seriously and providing the resources that schools need to prevent future tragedies,” Martin said. “School safety is expected to be one of the biggest issues for the Senate going forward, and I am hopeful that these issues will continue to be discussed at the local level as well.”
In addition to a number of measures benefitting the education community, the budget also included an additional $7 million to restore Governor Wolf’s proposed cuts to critical agricultural programs and boost other programs in the Department of Agriculture, including $3 million in new funding to combat the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive species that threatens the grape, hops and logging industries.
Jake Smeltz (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Terry Trego (717) 787-6535 (Senator Martin)