House Passes State Budget
The GOP-dominated House passed a $27.7 billion state budget Thursday for fiscal year 2012-2013 with a vote of 120 to 81. While all but one Republican stood behind Senate Bill 1466, the majority of Democrats are criticizing the legislature for granting a multimillion-dollar tax break to a chemical refinery, for cutting social service funding by 10 percent and for flat-lining education funding as reported by Fox43.
“The budget bill we passed this evening and sent to the Senate is a responsible, and more importantly, a sustainable spending plan,” said House Speaker Sam Smith. “I am pleased that we prioritized spending and restored funding for education — kindergarten through college. One of our greatest challenges this year was restoring $84 million to the governor’s proposed 20 percent cut to human services funding. This will help our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
According to Capitolwire, the budget was negotiated by Gov. Tom Corbett and House Republican leaders. Though Corbett originally attempted to cut back spending to $27.1 billion, legislators fought for the extra $500 million which will be supported without tax increase.
The extra money will prevent Corbett’s proposed cut of 30 percent to university funding and decrease his proposed cut to human service funding by 10 percent.
The additional money will be used primarily to fund business tax breaks and cover the rising cost of health care and public-employee pensions. Public education spending will remain the same after last year’s 10 percent reduction, though an additional $50 million will be divided amongst struggling districts.
Furthermore, the Associated Press reported that Senate Bill 1466 will allow for a limitless 25-year tax break beginning in 2017 for a PA petrochemical refinery and chemical manufacturing industry. Corbett’s budget proposal would have enforced a tax credit cap at $66 million annually, but the House-passed legislation will allow a 5-cent break per gallon of ethane used by the refinery, without limit.
Although the cut to social service funding is less than Democrats initially feared after Corbett revealed his proposal this past winter, it is significant enough to shut down a program that provides approximately $200-a-month cash benefit for disabled adults who are unable to work, as reported by the Associated Press.
“My advice to Pennsylvanians…is don’t get old, don’t get sick, don’t try to educate kids, don’t be unlucky enough to be disabled, don’t try to find a job, don’t try to catch a bus and don’t try to find a non-deficient bridge,” said Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny County) who was the leading minority representative on the House Appropriations Committee.