HARRISBURG – Lancaster County Senators Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13) supported passage of a bipartisan spending plan for Fiscal Year 2017-18 today that responsibly controls the growth in government spending, while at the same time supporting programs that are critical to the region.
The $31.99 billion spending plan is $54.3 million more than the previous year’s budget – a 0.2 percent increase. The total is nearly $650 million less than the budget proposed by Governor Wolf in February.
Operational funding was reduced for most state agencies and departments to encourage more efficiency in state government. The reduction in agency spending helped make additional funding available for Basic Education ($100 million increase), early childhood education ($30 million increase), special education ($25 million increase), and restorations of proposed cuts in the Department of Agriculture ($2.5 million).
“Every budget is a statement of priorities. The bipartisan plan we approved today demonstrates our commitment to restraining the cost of government while investing in our young people and our top industries,” Aument said. “The agreement on spending sets the stage for a debate on how we can solve the fiscal problems that have plagued the state for more than a decade and promote pro-growth policies that will set our Commonwealth on a path to a more prosperous future.”
“The question that everyone should be asking when we debate the state budget is how we can provide the greatest benefit to our communities at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers. This budget takes a number of meaningful steps toward reaching both of those goals,” Martin said. “We’re asking many of our state agencies to do more with less, while at the same time investing in areas of the budget that all sides agree are important.”
Martin noted that the reduction in spending for the criminal justice system was one of the key provisions of this year’s budget. The budget includes a merger of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole to reduce costs and streamline Corrections operations. Coupled with reductions to overtime spending, the merger helped cut costs by $100 million.
“Costs in the Department of Corrections have increased by hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years. It is extremely encouraging that this budget reduces overall costs for the criminal justice system for the first time in decades,” Martin said. “Getting these costs under control is one of the main reasons why we were able to hold down the overall growth in state spending.”
Aument praised the restoration of funding for critical agricultural programs that Governor Wolf sought to cut. The original budget proposed by the governor would have slashed funding for Agricultural Excellence; Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports; Hardwoods Research and Promotion; Livestock Show; and Open Dairy Show. The governor’s budget slashed approximately $2.5 million from those line items.
Overall, the Department of Agriculture budget under the new spending plan totals $144.1 million for FY 2017-18, an increase of nearly $500,000 from last year’s allotment. The budget also did not include the governor’s proposed lease of the Farm Show Complex.
“Agriculture is a way life for numerous families throughout Lancaster County, and Governor Wolf’s original plan would have had an enormous negative impact on some of the programs designed to promote Pennsylvania’s top industry,” Aument said. “The final budget agreement affirms our commitment to maintaining our Commonwealth’s status as a world leader in agriculture.”
Both Senators emphasized that the spending component of the budget is only one part of the equation. Lawmakers will take up the debate regarding potential revenue options to meet the state’s financial obligations in the days to come.
Jake Smeltz (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Terry Trego (717) 787-6535 (Senator Martin)