Recently, I joined a bipartisan coalition in the state House to pass a complete state budget package (spending and revenue) for FY2016-17. The budget includes historic state funding levels for public education, meets the state’s obligations, and – for the first time in 15 years – makes an Actuarial Required Contribution to the state’s pension system.
The budget represents an increase over the FY2014-15 budget, but is nearly $2 billion less than Governor Wolf’s proposal which would have required massive increases in the state’s income and sales tax to fund. Of the spending increase, the vast majority goes to meeting the state’s obligations for public pensions, Medicaid expansion, and corrections.
The budget shows what can happen when we focus on compromise and common sense. We were able to spend without relying on a new sales or increased income taxes, while still providing a 6 percent increase in state education funding over the year before.
State education funding will reach $11.7 billion under this budget. In total, the new budget allocates more than a $200 million increase for basic K-12 education, an additional $25 million for the Pre-K Counts program, a $20 million boost for special education, and $5 million more for Head Start.
This budget continues my commitment to focusing the state budget on priorities without asking more of taxpayers. It expands our investment in education, protects taxpayers, helps local school districts, begins the process of addressing the public pension issue, and does all of this through the bipartisan compromise that is too often missing these days.
The budget package also includes $345 million for PSERS, the public pension system, and dedicates future revenue to PSERS contributions. Addressing the public pension issue is critical to the future fiscal health of Pennsylvania, as public pensions are one of the largest cost drivers for both the state and local school districts across the Commonwealth.
The steps taken in this budget, along with the landmark public pension reform bill passed by the House last month and now awaiting action in the Senate, are important steps forward on meeting our pension obligations. We must continue to address this vital issue to protect the property taxpayers of our state.
Importantly, the budget package is paid for without the massive income and/or sales tax increases proposed by the Governor. These broad-based tax increases would unfairly target Chester and Montgomery Counties, and you have told me that you did not want them. The budget package will also utilize the new bipartisan education funding formula that is better for homeowners in the 157th District.
This vote shows that by focusing on priorities and building consensus, divided government can work. This year’s budget is on-time, fiscally responsible, and addresses the issues most critical to the future of our state.