HARRISBURG – Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) today praised the General Assembly who overwhelmingly approved the 2016-17 state budget, sending it to Governor Wolf to sign into law.
“I am pleased to stand with the overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats to deliver an on-time, fiscally responsible state spending plan to Governor Wolf,” said Sen. Aument. “My goal is to continue to promote opportunity for all people, and I believe that this budget moves our Commonwealth in that direction.”
The 2016-17 budget increases spending by $1.4 billion, a 4.7 percent increase over 2015-16 levels. In February, Governor Wolf requested $3.2 billion more in spending.
Increases in the budget focused on investments in education. An additional $200 million was included for basic education, as well as a $25 million increase for pre-K, a $5 million increase for Head Start and $20 million more for special education.
“I am hopeful that the people of Pennsylvania will recognize that the General Assembly continues to make education a priority,” said Sen. Aument. “While I am happy to support increased funding, we must not forget that money alone is not the answer. Substantive educational reforms must continue to be pursued so that the large investments we are making will produce results consistent with those contributions.”
Another area of the budget that received increases was the Department of Agriculture. Overall, the department’s budget was increased by 5 percent. The General Assembly restored and expanded funding for Agricultural Excellence, Agricultural Research, Farmers’ Market Food Coupons, Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports, Hardwoods Research and Promotion, Livestock Show and Open Dairy Show.
“Pennsylvania’s economy cannot work properly without a strong agricultural sector,” said Sen. Aument. “These modest investments today will pay big economic dividends tomorrow. Our farmers and those in production agriculture which are the backbone of Lancaster County’s economy need to know that we support them.”
In response to the opioid crisis that is spreading across Pennsylvania, the General Assembly included a $15 million appropriation in the 2016-17 budget.
“I have heard from many people in the 36th Senatorial District who are seeing heroin and prescription drug abuse more often, and we have to get out in front of this terrible disease now, before it becomes an epidemic,” said Sen. Aument. “I am hopeful that these monies will be used to assist those who need it the most and help eradicate this plague that is destroying individuals, families and communities.”
Sen. Aument noted that one of the primary reasons that spending increased by 4.7 percent over last year was due to mandated costs associated with public sector pensions, human services and corrections.
“I cannot stress enough the need to take affirmative and strong action to address our Commonwealth’s crippling pension crisis,” said Sen. Aument, citing that $345 million in new spending was being directed to pay for teacher pensions and $140 million more was required for state employee pensions.
“We absolutely must finally resolve to reform these costly systems. Overly generous public sector pensions are threatening the economic wellbeing of our state and school districts and without intervention, they will continue to drain scarce tax dollars away from services and programs that our citizens need.”
Finally, Sen. Aument applauded the fact that the 2016-17 budget was crafted in a bipartisan manner and did not increase any broad-based taxes, including the state sales tax or the personal income tax.
“The best way to manage and fund government is to have a strong economy, low unemployment and be a state that welcomes entrepreneurs, business and industry,” said Sen. Aument. “We can naturally grow our way to prosperity by promoting good economic policies, which benefits everyone,” said the Senator.
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz, (717) 787-4420