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Responsible Budget Bill Approved
Responsible Budget Bill Approved
July 1, 2014 
HARRISBURG – Lawmakers approved a $29.09 billion on-time state budget Monday in Harrisburg that provides a significant increase in spending for public education while holding the line on taxes.

The House voted to concur on Senate amendments to House Bill 2328, the general appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014-15. The legislation, which contains no new taxes or tax increases, sets yet another record in funding for K-12 education at $10.5 billion, eclipsing the amount spent during 2013-14.

House Speaker Sam Smith (R-Jefferson/Indiana/Armstrong) said today that the 2014-15 state budget is a modest spending plan that funds the state’s priorities without increasing taxes or imposing new ones. 

Representative Matt Gabler said, “For the fourth consecutive year, Pennsylvania has an on-time budget that spends responsibly, lives within our means and supports the core functions of government. In other words, it mirrors the spending practices Pennsylvanians employ when putting together their household budgets.“

Smith noted that even as state revenues plummeted following the introduction of the governor’s February spending proposal, the $29 billion state budget approved Monday includes moderate increases for education, hospitals, nursing homes, and funding to reduce the waiting lists for people with intellectual disabilities in need of services.

“This budget funds what we need to fund and nothing more,” Smith said. “Any budgeting process needs to reflect fiscal restraint and that’s what we have attempted to achieve in this plan. We support our priorities with existing revenues, not new money from taxes.”

“Again this coming fiscal year, we will be funding K-12 education at a record level. This commitment of $10.5 billion in state funding to our schools eclipses last year’s record amount by over half a billion dollars.  In fact, this bill increases support for public schools in the 75th Legislative District by nearly $2 million over last year’s budget.” Gabler said.  

The Accountability Block Grant is replaced with a new $200 million “Ready to Learn Block Grant,” which schools may use in a variety of ways to support academic achievement.

Noting the success of the child advocacy center located in Brookville, “Western PA CARES for Kids,” Smith said he is pleased that this budget contains $2.2. million to aid centers all across Pennsylvania that are providing services and support for children who have said they were either physically or sexually abused.

Smith stressed that the budget does not contain any of the revenue-enhancing options discussed in the past several weeks, including increasing taxes on Marcellus Shale gas drillers or hiking the cigarette tax. It also continues the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise business tax which has been a key incentive to Pennsylvania’s job creators.

“Decreased support from the federal government has placed certain burdens on state budgets that have forced us to make hard decisions. In spite of that, we have produced a spending plan that does not increase our reliance on the Pennsylvania taxpayer to be in balance. It does not raise taxes or create new ones, and does not incur new debt.”

“Facing a deficit that exceeded $1 billion dollars, we were able to craft this budget by transferring excess balances from existing state funds,” Smith said.   “As opposed to imposing new or expanded taxes that could have had a detrimental impact on the state’s economy, we chose to live within our means by reallocating funds in current accounts to cover our spending priorities.”

Smith added that the transfer from the Volunteer Companies Loan Fund will not impact the current activity of the loan fund therefore not taking any money away from volunteer fire companies. He clarified that the loan fund is completely separate from the grant program that provides grants to fire and emergency services through gaming funds. The annual $30 million grant program is not impacted in any way and not included in any transfers.  

House Bill 2328 was approved in the House by a vote of 108 - 95.  

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