Harrisburg – Senator Bob Mensch (R-24) voted to approve a FY 2017-18 General Fund budget that represents a $54.3 million (0.2 percent) increase in spending over the enacted Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget with supplemental appropriations included, and is nearly $650 million less than Governor Wolf’s budget request from February ($32.6 billion). The measure passed the Senate and was returned to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
“This budget adheres to the approach demanded by taxpayers by controlling state government spending and cutting through expensive layers of bureaucracy,” said Mensch. “Along with the fiscally responsible approach to the budget, the spending plan meets the core responsibilities of government and funds the priorities shared by both parties – maintaining a quality education system, promoting job growth and addressing some of the most serious challenges facing our communities.”
The Senate-passed version of HB 218 optimizes available funding and exercises fiscal restraint. In addition, it restores the drastic cuts and program eliminations that were included in the initial version of the bill.
The FY 2018-18 budget increases the state’s share of PreK-12 funding to a historic high of $11.8 billion. Basic Education Funding was increased by $100 million (1.7 percent) from $5,895,079 to $5,995,079 in FY 2017-18. It also restores the $50 million that was cut from the School District transportation program, ensuring there will be no funding reduction to school districts in this vital program. The budget also provides an additional $25 million for the Pre-K Counts program (to $172 million), a $25 million boost for special education (to $1.1 billion), an increase of $11.7 million for early intervention programs (to $264 million), and $5 million more for Head Start (to $54 million).
HB 218 allocates $7 million to combat a heroin and opioid epidemic, including funds to expand access to life-saving naloxone and to support additional drug courts. It also restores funding that was eliminated by the Governor for a number of important health programs: Regional Cancer Institutes ($600,000); Lupus ($100,000); Trauma Prevention ($460,000); Epilepsy Support Services ($550,000); Adult Cystic Fibrosis ($750,000); Tourette Syndrome ($150,000); and ALS Support Services ($500,000).
The budget restores funding for key agricultural programs eliminated by the Governor, including the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Overall, the Department of Agriculture budget totals $144.1 million for FY 2017-18, an increase of nearly $500,000 from last year’s budget. This includes the restoration and expansion of funding cut by the Governor for Agricultural Excellence ($1.3 million); Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports ($303,000); Hardwoods Research and Promotion ($424,000); Livestock Show ($215,000); and Open Dairy Show ($215,000). The budget does not include the Governor’s proposal to lease/leaseback the Farm Show Building.
HB 218 provides for a thorough review process to examine the unification of the Departments of Human Services and Health into a single Department of Health and Human Services. This review process will ensure the General Assembly has the opportunity to consider stakeholder input and is given adequate time to review a full implementation plan before making a final decision on unification of the agencies. This budget also assumes the merger of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole, a proposal that was initially offered in February 2016 and reviewed over the last 18 months.
The bill does not include the Governor’s proposal to charge municipalities without polices forces for State Police Coverage.
For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com. State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/senatormensch, or Twitter @SenatorMensch.
CONTACT: Sarah Rasmussen firstname.lastname@example.org (215) 541-2388