HARRISBURG – Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) today voted to send Governor Wolf a compromise $30.26 billion budget to fund state government operations for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
“My top priority has been to get immediate relief to our school districts, human service providers and all those that depend on state and federal monies to operate,” said Sen. Aument. “This budget accomplishes that goal and makes responsible investments in important state programs and services.”
House Bill 1460, which passed the Senate by a 33-17 margin, now heads to Governor Wolf for his consideration.
“This budget impasse has gone on way too long, and this approach meets Governor Wolf in the middle. It’s an affordable plan that will not require massive tax increases to fund,” said Sen. Aument. “The most important thing the people of the 36th Senatorial District have consistently told me is that they do not want to pay higher income or sales taxes.”
The new budget increases spending by approximately $1 billion over 2014-15 totals, which is roughly a 3.7% increase.
“I think this budget makes solid, affordable investments in education,” said Sen. Aument. “It includes $100 million more for basic education, $30 million more for special education, and invests $30 million more for early learning programs.” Taken together, a total of $405 million more will be added to Pre-K through 12 education.
Sen. Aument also noted that he was pleased that the budget restored funding for agriculture that was proposed to be eliminated by Governor Wolf. The Department of Agriculture will receive a total of $25 million in new funding for a total increase of 19.4%.
“Agriculture drives Lancaster County and Pennsylvania’s economy, and modest investments can produce significant returns,” said Sen. Aument.
Other notable components of House Bill 1460 include:
- $10 million increase for the Education Improvement Tax Credit.
- An Accelerated School Construction Investment Program.
- 5% increase for community colleges, the State System of Higher Education, State Related institutions, and nearly all areas of higher education, including $617,000 more for Thaddeus Stevens School of Technology.
- $17.24 million increase in PHEAA for grants to students.
- $11.3 million for community colleges.
- $94 million for home and community based services, $40 million more for Services to Persons with Disabilities, $16 million more for Long Term Managed Care, and $11 million more for Attendant Care – increases that will allow an additional 6,500 people to receive various services.
- A 10% increase ($2.4 million more) for Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis services.
- An increase of $6.2 million (15%) for drug and alcohol programs.
- Restoration of cuts made to many health programs, including diabetes programs, lupus, regional poison control centers, epilepsy support, and bio-tech research.
- A 10% increase for the Commonwealth’s Veterans’ Homes.
- Funding for four classes of State Police cadets, for a total of 350 troopers.
Sen. Aument has consistently voted to end the current budget impasse, however he most recently voted against Governor Wolf’s proposed $30.8 billion plan, Senate Bill 1073, which would have necessitated $1.5 billion in new taxes.
“The people expect us to find ways to manage better, because state government is expensive enough. I am sure that most people think a 3.7% increase in spending is more than enough and I agree,” said Sen. Aument. “Given that we are nearly six months without a spending plan, we must move forward. However, we need to get serious about finding efficiencies in government, including eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in programs and services – something I have made a top priority.”
Once the budget is sent to Governor Wolf, he will have 10 days to decide whether to sign, veto or not sign the legislation and allow it to become law without his signature. The Governor could also choose to exercise his constitutional authority to line-item veto or reduce spending items.
“Governor Wolf has vetoed several spending plans since June 30th,” said Sen. Aument. “Enough is enough. If he cares at all about schools, people who depend on human services to live, and all those who work hard each day to already pay taxes, he should sign this budget into law immediately.”
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz, (717) 787-4420