HARRISBURG, July 1, 2013 – After giving careful consideration to the $ 28.37 billion budget approved Sunday by the state Senate, Sen. John Blake said he voted against the 2013-’14 spending plan.
“There are several important line items in the budget that signal good news to Pennsylvanians but they are outweighed by investments that are not there or are insufficient,” Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) said.
The good news, Blake said, is the budget increases Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s appropriation by $8 million to $87.3 million and includes $2.5 million for a mobile crime unit that is important for Northeast PA. He said he also likes that the budget delivers much needed funding for strategic upgrades in technology for Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s office.
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Additionally, the senator said he applauds the $150,000 increase for regional cancer institutes, the reappearance of state support of the Civil Air Patrol, additional support for Heritage Parks; more money for three new state police cadet classes; and increases in commitments to serve veterans and their families.
However, Blake listed several other areas of the budget that, taken together, were reason enough to vote against it.
“A major reason is this budget simply does not go far enough in helping our children in public education,” Blake said. “It flat funds special education, misses the opportunity to help distressed school districts and still underfunds public schools all over Pennsylvania that continue to struggle with the $1 billion in cuts rendered in the governor’s first budget. These are cuts that have resulted in massive teacher layoffs, increased class sizes and higher local property taxes.”
With the 2013-’14 budget, Pennsylvania holds its special education funding at $1.026 billion despite extraordinary pressure on local school districts to meet rising costs and responsibilities in this area.
Other shortcomings of the budget, according to Sen. Blake:
- Insufficient funding for proven job-creation programs at the Department of Community and Economic Development, or DCED;
- No additional investment for Scranton, Carbondale and other struggling PA small cities;
- The budget will carry forward an estimated $500 million in unspent funds left to the discretion of the Governor that could have helped meet some pressing and more immediate needs;
- It includes budget gimmicks and shifting of funds for nearly $90 million in spending that is not obvious to PA taxpayers; and
- It unnecessarily delays Medicaid expansion, which will delay $150 million in federal aid to relieve state spending.