Harrisburg – State Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the panel will carefully study the $29.4 billion state budget unveiled today by Gov. Tom Corbett before a joint session of the General Assembly.
“The 2014-15 spending plan once again holds the line on taxes and reflects the reality of an economy that is improving, allowing for targeted investments in key areas,” said Mensch.
The proposed budget includes a new initiative to improve student performance in Pennsylvania classrooms and better prepare students for the needs of the modern workforce. The $341 million Ready to Learn program includes:
- The current $100 million Accountability Block Grant program.
- $240 million in block grants to:
- Improve performance in reading and math by 3rd grade;
- Support STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives; and,
- Offer flexibility to provide customized instruction.
- $1 million to provide grants of up to $20,000 to high performing schools to assist and help other districts.
The plan increases funding for the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program by $10 million, allowing approximately 1,670 additional Pennsylvania pre-school children to access high-quality early learning. Special education funding is increased by $20 million in the budget proposal to $1.046 billion – the first increase in six years.
In addition, the Governor’s two-year, $211 million Enhance Penn’s Woods initiative provides funding to upgrade state park and state forest infrastructure to enhance those areas as destinations for eco-tourism and outdoor recreation.
The spending plan includes a $22.4 million increase in the budget to reduce the waiting list for intellectual disabilities services. It would allow approximately 1,100 additional Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities to receive home and community-based services. The funding will assist special education graduates who “age out” of the school support system when graduating high school.
“The increase will also remove adults with intellectual disabilities from the emergency waiting list,” said Mensch. “Individuals in the emergency category have been identified as needing services within the next six months, often because they live at home with an elderly caregiver or single parent who must split time between full-time employment and caregiving duties.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee hold three weeks of public hearings on the proposed budget beginning Monday.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to closely examine the governor’s plan and to question department heads as how they will implement it,” said Mensch. “It will be thorough, transparent process and one that will focus on the impact the budget will have on lives of Pennsylvania taxpayers.”