Last updated: February 05. 2014 9:53AM - 1996 Views
By Bill O’Boyle boboyle@civitasmedia.com

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WILKES-BARRE — State Sen. Lisa Baker said a state budget with no tax increase should sit well with taxpayers during tough times.

Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday revealed his proposed $29.4 billion budget for 2014-15, prompting Baker to note that four years without a tax increase is an admirable record of fiscal restraint.

Baker, R-Lehman Township, said the added money Corbett recommends for schools, special education, the disabled and autistic, domestic violence protection and state parks addresses programs that should be getting priority.

“How these increases are to be funded, and how the money is to be distributed, will get a careful look in the coming months,” Baker said.

She was also pleased with the governor’s plan to commit money to the recently created Veterans Trust Fund, which will meet more of the needs veterans have.

Baker said the economy and the job picture are the leading concerns for many families, and funding transportation improvements and encouraging energy development are also key.

She said it’s crucial for Pennsylvania to get the necessary clearance from the federal government to proceed to implement the Healthy Pennsylvania plan.

“There are a lot of working families who need and should have access to health care coverage,” Baker said. “It is important too, to the health care providers who are providing greater levels of uncompensated care each year.”

Baker said a key part of Corbett’s message is that “some substantial reforms” to the structure of state government must be made in order to strengthen Pennsylvania. She said pension reform clearly tops the must-do list, although there are conflicting approaches on how to accomplish it.

“Whether they are the ones the governor prefers, or other reforms that citizens have been pushing, it is important for us to reach agreement and take action,” Baker said.

Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, said the governor’s budget address is the start of a long discussion between the House and Senate. Boback serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

She said the plan is based on revenue collections up to this point in the year and on projections through June. She said adjustments can always be made if revenues outperform expectations.

“Last year, Gov. Corbett signed an extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” Boback said. “This program will continue through 2015. In this budget plan, the governor also proposed a $5.5 million increase for the program so that it can provide health insurance for more than 10,000 additional children.”

Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, said the governor’s address is a blueprint to be considered during the difficult budget negotiations that will occur over the next several months. She said the goal is to put together a spending plan that best serves the people of Pennsylvania, while still continuing to spend within our means.

“Any statement that education spending has decreased is completely untruthful and is based upon a fudging of the numbers resulting from the loss of President Obama’s one-time stimulus funding four years ago,” Toohil said. “Over the next few weeks of budget hearings, I will be digging in deep to see where we can come up with more money for our local residents.”

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