HARRISBURG – June 27, 2019 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today released the following statement regarding Senate passage of a $34 billion state budget for the 2019-20 Fiscal Year.
“For all the positives on which we were able to reach consensus regarding education funding; agriculture; human services; child welfare; and job training, there were a number of disappointing and rather serious policy differences that will ultimately define this budget. These include the elimination of general assistance to over 11,000 of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians; the failure to address a much-needed increase in our state’s minimum wage; and the willingness of the majority party to, once again leave on the table, revenue which could have been raised from a reasonable severance tax on the extraction of natural gas in our state.”
“I was able to vote for this budget because of the positive local impacts this spending plan will have. First and foremost, this budget reveals a continuing commitment to education at all levels as it includes a $160 million increase in basic education funding; a level-funded ready to learn grant program; a $50 million increase in special education funding; increases in early childhood education and in the pre-K counts program. These investments in public education will bring $10.5 million in additional funding to the woefully underfunded Scranton School District. This state budget also invests another $60 million in school safety and security and includes a 2% across the board increase for community colleges and higher education. The budget also supports level funding to the same number of student beneficiaries through this year’s PA Higher Education Assistance Agency’s state grant program.”
“This 2019-2020 state budget also provides much-needed increases for agriculture and — through several new initiatives — focuses assistance on our struggling dairy industry. It increases funding to our public library system and it supports significant increases in home and community-based case for our seniors as well as for county child welfare services. There are also significant increases to serve children with intellectual disabilities and their families.”
“This budget will fund $40 million in new, local small water and sewer projects across the state; increase our investment in community and economic development by over $22 million; and invest more in adequate and affordable housing through PHFA’s Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE). Finally, this state budget continues to support the great work being done at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine and at the NE Regional Cancer Institute.”
“The performance of our state’s economy will enable all of these new investments to be achieved without a broad-based tax increase. The budget fully funds our annual state pension obligations and over $250 million will be deposited in the state’s rainy day fund as insurance against a future recession”.
“It is not the budget the Senate Democratic minority would have devised for Pennsylvania but we achieved a responsible spending plan and we negotiated across party lines as well as with the Governor’s office to ensure the best possible, on-time, balanced, state budget outcome.”
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