State Budget Holds The Line On Taxes, Cuts Spending

Sen. Mike Brubaker

When the General Assembly began working on the state budget in February, my top budgetary goals included passing a responsible spending plan on time without raising taxes on Pennsylvania families and businesses. I am very pleased that the General Assembly met these goals by passing a sustainable state budget prior to the June 30 fiscal year deadline with no tax increases.

One of the most important tasks in this year’s budget negotiations was ensuring state spending matches state revenues. The 2011-12 General Fund budget spends approximately $1.1 billion less than last year’s budget. This three-percent reduction in state spending is one of the largest spending cuts in the state’s history. These spending cuts will also increase the likelihood that we can avoid painful broad-based tax increases on families and job-creators in future budgets.

The budget restored some of the proposed cuts to education, ensuring local schools are able to meet the educational needs of children at the most reasonable cost to taxpayers. The General Assembly restored more than $250 million in proposed funding cuts for basic education and more than $400 million in proposed cuts to higher education. The budget also includes $100 million for the Accountability Block Grant Program, focusing taxpayer dollars on education programs that are most likely to improve student achievement. The restoration of Accountability Block Grant funding was made possible in part by using funds from legislative accounts. I cosponsored legislation that would return legislative account surpluses to the General Fund earlier this year, and I am thankful that this funding will be put to good use in our local schools.

The General Assembly identified a number of cost-saving measures during a thorough review of every state program and service in this year’s budget. The budget includes significant savings in the Department of Public Welfare that will improve efficiency, including new fraud detection measures. Additional savings were also included in the Department of Corrections budget, one of the state’s largest annual expenses.

The budget includes a number of cuts to worthwhile programs, but this spending plan reflects the same difficult financial situation that local families have faced for several years. I am pleased that this plan slows the growth of government spending while addressing the core services that state residents rely on most.

Educational Opportunities Available on State Government Websites

While most local children do not have to go to school every day during the summer months, fun educational opportunities are still available online at several state government websites.

The PA Department of Environmental Protection website includes a section for kids, including topics such as energy and recycling. The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources includes information on fossils, rocks and minerals and earthquakes, as well as glaciers and landslides. Also, the PA Office of Attorney General includes tips for cyber-bulling and safe web surfing and gives children a chance to become an official Junior Attorney General with a printable certificate.

These are just a few of the numerous educational opportunities available on state government websites. I would encourage parents to make use of these resources this summer.