STATE—Last week, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation which was signed by Governor Tom Wolf approving the 2019-2020 state budget, a total of $33.9 billion with no tax increase.
With a 1.8 percent increase in spending over the 2018-2019 budget, this year's allocations look to promote Pennsylvania economic and workforce development, strengthen PA agriculture and education, and reinvest in the Commonwealth's Rainy Day Fund.
“This budget is a reasonable and responsible effort at fitting some well-targeted spending increases within expected revenue,” said Senator Lisa Baker (R20) in a press release. “The priorities for increases are places that will benefit the district: education, worker skills, farm assistance, school and community safety, and enhanced services for crime and abuse victims, and another layer of funding is provided for dealing with widespread drug and alcohol problems that continue to afflict our communities.”
Supporting Pennsylvania farmers, the 2019-2020 budget increases funding to the Department of Agriculture by 13 percent to a total of $19.5 million.
Included in this are two percent increases for Ag Research/Ag Extension and the University of Pennsylvania School for Veterinary studies.
There is also $4.5 million of new funding approved for agricultural business and workforce investment, $2 million of new funding for the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission, and $1 million of new funding to put towards livestock and consumer health protection.
Approved in the budget were a $7 million (7.6 percent) increase to educational funding to a total of $99 million, and a $3 million (117.7 percent) increase in educational equipment grants to a total of $5.5 million.
Basic Education funding received a $160 million increase and Special Education funding was expanded by $50 million.
The budget also provides funding for technological trade development through $26.7 million approved for the Pennsylvania College of Technology and $18.7 million in funding approved for Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, an increase to each of $4 million.
“We are at a point in time where our economy is growing and more and more Pennsylvanians are getting back to work,” said Representative Mike Peifer (R-139, Wayne/Pike) in a press release. “With that growth, sales tax revenue increased by 7%, Personal Income Tax revenue increased by 5%, Corporate Net Income tax increased by 17.4% and Pennsylvania’s General Fund tax revenue increased by 6.3%.”
Peifer added, “Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has declined from 7.9% in January of 2011 to 3.8% today – the lowest rate since state-level records began in 1976.
“The state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown from $599 billion in 2010 to $789 billion in 2018, a 15% increase in real GDP, despite a state population that has grown by less than 1%.”
The approved budget “...would spend $149 million less than the governor's budget proposal earlier this year,” states a release from the office of Representative Jonathan Fritz (R-111, Wayne/Susquehanna).
Fritz stated, ““With our determination to cut back and manage our state’s spending, as well as a strong economy, we have seen a definite uptick in our state’s revenues.”
This has allowed the Commonwealth to reinvest between $250 million and $300 million into the Rainy Day Fund for future use.
“All of this has been accomplished without a severance tax, bailouts or new taxes and fees,” said Fritz, adding, “Instead of raising taxes and increasing the burdens on the taxpayers, we are focused on growing our state’s economy to produce real results for the financial well-being of the Commonwealth and its taxpayers.”