HARRISBURG – Lancaster County Senators Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13) supported passage of a fiscally responsible state budget today that includes no new taxes, meets the core responsibilities of government, boosts funding for education and job training programs, and puts the state on better financial footing.
The $33.97 billion spending plan represents an increase of just 1.8 percent over the previous year’s budget, which is consistent with the inflation rate. State revenues exceeded estimates during the current fiscal year, so the entire remaining balance of $300 million was deposited in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, a responsible shift intended to boost savings and improve Pennsylvania’s fiscal health for future generations.
“The fact that we had a budget surplus this year is a direct result of prudent fiscal and pro-growth economic policies that encouraged smart investments and strategic budgeting to the benefit of Pennsylvania taxpayers,” Aument said. “This strategy is clearly working for Pennsylvania, and we should continue to manage taxpayer dollars conservatively to create an environment where every state resident can experience earned success.”
“Forcing state government to spend within its means and avoiding tax increases is a recipe for economic success,” Martin said. “We are in this position today because we fought tooth and nail against higher government spending and broad-based tax increases. This approach sets the stage for more business growth, better jobs for Pennsylvanians, and a reduced risk of tax increases in the future.”
Both lawmakers agree that the strong fiscal outlook and revenue surplus this year is no excuse to exercise careless spending increases, but would best be used to prioritize investments in key programs that will promote economic growth for years to come.
As such, the budget includes a strong focus on education and workforce development. One of the highlights is an additional $4 million for Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology – a 27.2-percent increase from the previous year’s funding.
“Thaddeus Stevens College offers some of the best job training programs of any school in Pennsylvania, and they continue to help connect students with quality job opportunities in high-demand industries,” Aument said. “The additional funding is well-deserved and will allow the college to offer even more opportunities for students. The end result will be a better trained workforce, stronger business growth and a stronger economic future for our Commonwealth.”
“The new funding for Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology is an acknowledgement of the value of their phenomenal training programs, as well as our confidence that the additional dollars will be put to good use in training more students for family-sustaining careers,” Martin said. “The school has been on the cutting edge of training job-seekers for the careers of the 21st Century, and I look forward to seeing how Thaddeus Stevens uses the new funding to benefit students.”
The Basic Education line item also received a $160 million boost, and additional funding was included for early childhood education ($30 million increase), special education ($50 million increase), early intervention ($15 million increase) and higher education (2 percent increase).
In addition to providing additional resources for education, lawmakers also restored a $15 million cut proposed by Governor Wolf to school safety. Lawmakers not only restored the cut, but also boosted school safety funding by an additional $1 million.
“The School Safety and Security Grant Program received hundreds of millions of dollars of requests from schools that could not be fulfilled last year, so cutting the program would have slowed down progress in our continuing efforts to protect students,” said Martin, who was a prime sponsor of a broad school safety law last year.
Further, Martin and Aument collaborated on a bill to improve school safety and provide new resources to help students who face extended absences from school due to injury or illness, which passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
Agriculture was also a priority in the budget. Lawmakers not only restored all of the governor’s proposed cuts to agriculture, but also increased funding for the Department of Agriculture by $19.5 million. The increased funding will support a number of new programs that were created this year to support Pennsylvania farmers.
“Lancaster County is a national leader in agriculture, and the industry is one of the most important sectors of our state and local economies,” said Aument, who contributed to Senate Republicans’ Farming First initiative. “Our farmers still face serious challenges, and we need to explore new ways to help them meet the growing demands of the market. I am thankful that we were able to take a number of steps to support the present and future of this extremely important industry.”
The budget plan was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and was sent to Governor Wolf to be signed into law.
AUDIO: Listen to Senator Aument
CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Terry Trego (717) 787-6535 (Senator Martin)