(HARRISBURG) – The Pennsylvania State Senate has passed a responsible, bi-partisan spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, according to Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-12).
House Bill 218 was approved by a vote of 43-7 earlier this morning. It spends $31.99 billion, which represents a $54.3 million (0.2%) increase from the previous fiscal year. This is $650 million less than the amount contained in the Governor’s proposed budget in February.
“Much of the Commonwealth is still economically challenged, and in tough times, taxpayers demand that we make fiscally responsible decisions about state spending and pass a balanced budget,” said Senator Greenleaf. “We were able to agree on a budget that accomplished that goal, with only an extremely modest increase in overall spending.”
A major highlight of HB 218 is a higher level of funding for education. Basic education receives an extra $100 million and $50 million is restored to the pupil transportation line that Governor Tom Wolf initially proposed to cut. Further, it includes an extra $25 million for Pre-K Counts, as well as the same amount of an increase for Special Education. In all, PreK-12 funding will increase to $11.8 billion, which is a historic level. Further, SB 218 includes a modest 2% increase in state funding for the State System for Higher Education, including Bloomsburg University.
The spending plan also contains a commitment to advance economic development efforts across the state. One of these highlights is a $12 million appropriation for a new program championed by Governor Wolf called Manufacture PA, which is intended to help support job creation in the manufacturing sector. It also maintains funding for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.
HB 218 also contains provisions that further streamline government and make operations more efficient and cost-effective. This includes Senator Greenleaf’s proposal to merge the current Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole into one single entity, saving tens of millions of dollars in state spending annually. In addition, a process has been implemented to thoroughly examine a potential merger of the Departments of Health and Human Services, which could result in significant additional savings. The process will ensure that the General Assembly fully considers stakeholder input and reviews a full implementation plan prior to making the long-term decision on the unification of these two Departments.
The measure now goes to the House of Representatives, which is expected to pass the bill and send it to Governor Tom Wolf for his signature.