State budget reflects people's priorities House Dems say

HARRISBURG, June 20 – House Democratic leaders said the 2018-19 state budget passed by the House reflects many of the values Pennsylvanians have been talking about this year.

"People across Pennsylvania want good schools in their neighborhoods that are safe for their kids, good jobs that support families, and communities that are healthy and safe to live and work in," Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said. "They want a budget that supports these values and opens opportunities for success for everyone. That's the direction this budget begins to point Pennsylvania."

The general appropriation bill passed today makes new investments in lifelong learning, from pre-kindergarten to college, and beyond.

Schools will receive a $100 million basic education increase in the ongoing effort to help them recover from the historic cuts made by Republicans in 2011. There are also new investments in special education and early learning.

Legislators expect to pass related measures in the coming days that will also provide funding to make schools safer for students and staff.

The budget includes a boost for the colleges that many Pennsylvania students attend, including increases for four state-related universities, the 14 state-system universities and 14 community colleges.

"We need to start relieving our students and families of some of the highest tuition rates in the nation, and the crushing debt burden that too many young people face as they leave school and begin their families and careers," Democratic Whip Mike Hanna said. 

The budget also invests in helping more people access technical education and skills training at all levels, including adults who are already in the workplace.

"This new focus on Career and Technical Education, skills training and apprenticeships -- known as PASmart -- will allow the state to partner with schools and businesses to build a workforce that is the best in the world," Hanna said.

"We want to make sure our workers are ready now and in the future to fill the jobs that businesses are demanding, and we want working people in Pennsylvania to have the opportunity to constantly move forward in their career so they can earn good wages, support their family and enjoy long-term financial security."

A recent study found that nearly 40 percent of Pennsylvania families still struggle to get by financially from week to week. The budget approved today takes a partial step to address that with greater support for safe, affordable child care options for working parents.

"I've always said a state budget is a reflection of the state's priorities," House Democratic Appropriations Chairman Joe Markosek said. "Clearly, federal priorities and many state budgets of the past have not been focused on working families and the middle class.

"With Governor Wolf's leadership and House Democrats fighting for a Plan for Pennsylvania that focuses on the everyday concerns of most people, we are finally starting to see budgets that reflect the values and priorities our residents hold dear -- quality education, good jobs and a healthy economy that delivers for everyone," Markosek said.

The Democratic leaders said the budget is not perfect. Republicans who control the General Assembly balked at a shale tax for drillers that a significant majority of Pennsylvanians support.

"By and large, this is a budget Pennsylvanians can be pleased with," Dermody said. "That hasn't always been the case with many previous budgets."