The Senate’s version of the state spending plan is almost certain to have differences from the House, which recently approved a budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year that begins July 1. One change is likely to include more spending. The House version is faithful to Governor Corbett’s $27.3 total amount, which is less spending than the current year. House Democrats, who are in the minority, fought for more spending saying that the end-of-year surplus could be over $500 million.
Even House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, said before approval of the budget that the House would consider spending beyond $27.3 billion if the Corbett Administration certifies that this year’s surplus is in at least the $500 million range. Smith’s comments came at a Press Club Luncheon in Harrisburg on May 23.
Education would likely benefit the most if lawmakers approve the additional spending. The House plan does restore a good portion of the cuts proposed by the governor in early March, but spending for education is still below the current year’s budget.
Floor Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny said the House had to deal with the loss of federal stimulus dollars: welfare, $1.7 billion; education, $1.1 billion; and corrections, $180 million.
Under the House budget, K-12 education would receive a $210 million net funding increase when compared to the governor’s budget. The proposal would allot $100 million for the highly successful Accountability Block Grant program that provides school districts with flexible funding often used for pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten, and tutoring programs. The House budget also gives an investment of state dollars to the Basic Education Funding (BEF) line item, as it redirects an additional $100 million back into the fund, according to a statement released by Turzai. BEF is the primary funding stream for all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania
In addition, the plan gives higher education $387 million over what the governor proposed. Of that, the budget dedicates $195 million to the 14 state-owned universities that make up The State System of Higher Education. The state-related universities, Penn State, Temple, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University, will receive an additional $184 Million, for a total of 75 percent the current fiscal year’s funding levels.
In all, the $27.3 Billion represents a 3 percent reduction compared to the Fiscal Year 2010-2011 budget which was supplemented by nearly $3 billion in federal stimulus dollars distributed throughout the state budget, according to a House Republican Caucus statement on the plan.