TOM CORBETT (AP File Photo)
Though critics of Gov. Tom Corbett’s public school spending can still complain about the 2013-2014 state budget’s flat funding level for special education, that’s about it.
The $28.37 billion budget contains a record $11.63 billion for education that includes increases for general education, early childhood education and higher education totaling $274 million.
Almost half that increase, $122.5 million, goes to the to the state’s 500 school districts for basic education.
While funding for state-related universities remained largely flat at $503.5 million, Lincoln University received a $2 million increase.
Early education programs will see an $11.4 million increase including $5 million more for Early Intervention, $4.5 million more for Pre-K Counts, and $1.9 million more for Head Start Supplemental Assistance.
But education wasn’t the only winner in this budget. The Department of Public Welfare will receive an additional $334 million. Some of these increases will go to see that more people with intellectual disabilities have access to housing.
There is also more money for nursing homes and for in-home senior care. And there is also an additional $7 million in subsidies for low-income children to receive child care services.
And while there is additional money for state employee raises, more funding for corrections, state police and the Department of Environmental Protection, the 2013-2014 budget is also notable for what it does not contain: deals on transportation funding, pension reform and privatizing liquor sales—all three initiatives Corbett said were his priorities.
The $5 billion transportation budget means $200 million less for mass transit, bridges and roads than last year. A deal recommended by Corbett’s transportation commission that could have been raised up to an additional $2 billion through higher gasoline taxes and fees was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans.
Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said that will likely mean more weight restrictions on bridges, and more construction projects shelved.
“We just lost a construction season by not doing this now,” he said at the signing ceremony June 30.
While versions of a plan to move state employees to a 401k-type system cleared panels in both the house and senate, lawmakers said they didn’t have time to come to an agreement by the budget deadline.
Similarly, there was enough agreement—at least among Republicans—on privatizing liquor sales that the senate barely managed to move a version of it out of committee. There is also agreement that the house version, passed in March, will not go forward.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who essentially wrote the house bill, said the far less aggressive senate version, which does not immediately give the state’s wholesale business to beer distributors as his does, will not do.
Another reason the senate version did not come up for a full vote is that senate Republicans didn’t want their transportation bill held hostage by the liquor privatization process. Nonetheless, Sen. Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks County, the key drafter on privatization, said the battle may not be over.
“Nobody’s walking away that I saw saying this thing is dead,” he said.
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