HARRISBURG, May 9, 2012 – – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today said passage in the Senate of a $27.6 billion state budget makes significant funding restorations to higher education, basic education and human service programs and is an important step forward to improve the state’s spending plan over that which was presented by Governor Corbett in February of this year.

Senate Bill 1466 passed the Senate by a 39-8 vote today.

“This vote and this proposed state budget represent a positive and significant effort toward crafting a fiscally responsible and economically sensible state budget – a budget not only vastly improved from the administration’s proposal, but one that, unlike last year, represents a negotiated compromise between both political parties,” Blake said. “I am encouraged with this early progress because it shows the voices of more Pennsylvanians being heard in Harrisburg but there is still plenty of room for improvement including additional support for human services as well as additional support for economic development and job growth”.

Blake, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that while Senate Bill 1466 restores about $520 million in funding that was proposed to be cut under Governor Corbett’s proposal in February, the Senate budget still does not make up for the enormous and painful cuts rendered in last year’s budget.

Of the $520 million restored to the state budget by Senate Bill 1466, more than $240 million would be dedicated to higher education — maintaining level funding levels for all state-owned, state-related and community colleges. The Senate plan would also restore basic education funding to public schools to last year’s level; dedicate $50 million to financially distressed school districts; $50 million to the Accountability Block Grant program that helps school districts fund programs such as full-day kindergarten; and increases state funding for human service programs by $84 million over Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget.

Finally, Senate Bill 1466 assures that two important compacts with the citizens of Pennsylvania be honored, namely the restoration of the CURE program that provides nearly $60 million in life science research and investment from the Tobacco Settlement fund and the restoration of over $70 million in funding to the Race Horse Development fund as originally intended in the state’s gaming law.

“The Senate Democratic Caucus has played an active role in advocating for our budget priorities and we have been strong advocates for the people we represent. I believe this budget represents a step forward by alleviating a significant amount of financial stress from our world-class higher education institutions, cash-strapped school districts and, most importantly, from our human service providers,” Blake added. “There are, however, still significant and substantial adjustments that need to be addressed prior to enacting a final budget. These include level funding for The Commonwealth Medical College; increasing funding to our critically important Regional Cancer Centers; and dedicating more state resources to local government, economic development and job creation programs under the Department of Community and Economic Development.”

Senate Bill 1466 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that the legislature enact a balanced state budget before July 1 each year.

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