Editorial: On time, about time
By Richard Gaw
By a 188-10 vote last week, the 2018-19 $32.7 billion budget breezed through the House of Representatives, and will now head to the Senate ahead of next week's deadline for an almost certain approval, making it the first on-time budget in Gov. Tom Wolf's tenure in office.
It's also one whose chief commitment is in education.
As it reads, the budget will increase state spending in education to an astronomical $12.3 billion – which will include $70 million for school safety initiatives; $30 million in new funds for vocational education programs, $20 million more for Pre-K programs; $5 million more for Head Start; an additional $15 million for special education costs; and a three percent increase in contributions to several community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities, including Lincoln University, which will receive $14.9 million from the state.
The budget also reflects not only the state's desire to reconstruct education, but individuals and families. It includes $4.5 million for home visits and other supports to families whose lives have been impacted by opioid addiction; and additional funding to reduce the waiting list for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and for low-income families awaiting subsidized child care services.
And, while there will be a $560 million spending increase over this year's nearly $32 billion budget, it is nearly $300 million less than what Wolf proposed in February.
Some in Harrisburg are saying that coming to an agreement on a budget before the end of June has not been done so efficiently in several decades. Despite speculations for its swiftness – that it's an election year, and the repercussions of previous battle fatigue from past budget delays are at the top of everyone's lists – press releases continue to roll into the Chester County Press from both political affiliations claiming credit for a budget that allocates spending for families and education, increases growth, requires no additional revenues and holds the line of tax increases.
The truth is that state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle reached fiscally responsible decisions that will help Pennsylvanians in all counties and municipalities, and it's they, not our elected officials, who will become the beneficiaries of this commitment.