Local Democrats, Republicans vote for $32.7B Pa. budget package

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
Toohil -
Mullery -

WILKES-BARRE — The Pennsylvania House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a $32.7 billion spending package for the state’s approaching fiscal year Wednesday.

State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, said he was happy to support what he called “a responsible, on-time budget that protects taxpayers because it contains no tax or fee increases.”

The centerpiece of the no-new-taxes spending package, unveiled just a day earlier, was approved by the House 188-10. It was negotiated behind closed doors by Republican majority leaders with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The package increases spending through the state’s main operating account by 2 percent over the current year’s budget of $32 billion. The increase goes largely to public schools, social services, pensions and prisons. It also creates a $60 million off-budget grant program for school safety.

However, House officials say it taps one-time cash sources to shift about $800 million in Medicaid costs off-budget.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Mullery, who serves as Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Career and Technical Education, was particularly pleased with the plan’s commitment to CTE programs.

“As a commonwealth, it’s important that we train students for the jobs that will be available in the future, and we do just that by providing more CTE programs,” Mullery said.

Altogether, Mullery said $40 million is in the budget for PA Smart, Wolf’s initiative to boost workforce development, computer science and STEM training.

Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca, said he voted for the budget and is pleased it was approved by the House.

“The budget recognizes the need for additional education funding from pre-K to higher education, while holding the line on income and sales taxes,” Carroll said. “While there are other priorities I would like to have included in the bills related to the budget, their consideration is not hindered going forward.”

Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, also supported the spending plan. She said every school district in her 116th Legislative District will receive a funding increase under the proposal.

“There is $100 million more allocated for basic education, an additional $25 million for early childhood education, while special education will increase by $15 million,” Toohil said. “In fact, this budget sets a new high of $12.3 billion for PreK-12 education. In addition, there was $25 million added to a program that allows for school choice.”

Toohil
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_Tarah-Toohil-1.jpgToohil

Mullery
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_Gerald-Mullery-cmyk201742915236533.jpgMullery

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle. The Associated Press contributed to this story.