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Corbett's budget plans include Pension Reform and more Money for Education
February 5, 2014
HARRISBURG(AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett is asking lawmakers to approve changes to Pennsylvania's public employee pension system in an effort to save $300 million for the state and school districts next year.

The Republican governor made the appeal during his budget address to lawmakers Tuesday. Corbett presented lawmakers with a $29.4 billion proposal that would increase funding for schools and social services. Cuts to those areas helped balance his first two budgets.

Corbett says inaction is unwise and unfair to children and the schools. Rising pension costs is one of Corbett's biggest fiscal challenges, and he says it's also driving up local property taxes.

Senator Joe Scarnati said he is glad the Govenor is making pension reform a priority. He also said, “For us to find the dollars to spend on education, on nursing homes, hospitals, and health care we need to make changes to the pension system.”

Last year, Corbett proposed reductions in pension benefits for future and current employees, but it fell flat with lawmakers. Now, he wants to reduce pension benefits just for future employees, but he hasn't said how.

To lower costs more immediately, he wants to postpone some pension payments into future years. The Senate and House will now hold three weeks of budget hearings on the governor’s proposal. A new state budget must be in place by June 30th.

Five candidates for the Democratic nomination — John Hanger, Rob McCord, Katie McGinty, Allyson Schwartz and Tom Wolf — cited Corbett's $1 billion-plus cut in education spending in 2011 and said the 2014-15 budget won't make up that loss.

McCord, the state treasurer, calls Corbett's proposals "too little, too late." Wolf, a businessman, says Corbett's sudden interest in education funding is "disingenuous." U.S. Rep. Schwartz says his proposals amount to "stale policy."

Some Senate Democrats said the budget proposal falls short in areas including a plan for creating jobs and economic development across Pennsylvania, adequately funding education, failing to expand the state’s Medicaid program to provide some 500,000 low-income working Pennsylvanians with health care insurance, no plan to raise the state’s minimum wage, and inadequate funding to counties for health and human services programs.

Senate Democrats, pointing out that the governor is running for reelection this year, are pleased that the budget holds the line on state taxes but says it amounts to nothing more than a new spin on an old agenda.

The Senate and House will now hold three weeks of budget hearings on the governor’s proposal. A new state budget must be in place by June 30th.

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