Steep cuts, no tax hikes in Corbett’s $27.1B budget

Posted: February 07, 2012

HARRISBURG - Gov. Corbett is proposing a $27.13 billion budget that again sticks to his campaign pledge not to raise taxes, but calls for steep cuts to higher education and mostly level funding for public schools and services for the state's poor and disabled.

The Republican governor's proposed spending plan for the fiscal year beginning in July is just a fraction leaner than this year's original $27.16 billion budget - less than a tenth of a percentage point.

"Today I bring before you a budget grounded in difficult realities but framed in the optimism that we are solving our problems," Corbett said in an address to the General Assembly. "Once again, revenues do not match mandated, escalating costs. That means we must continue the course bravely charted by this assembly in the year just passed."

Higher education appears to be taking the biggest hit, with funding being axed for three of the four state-related universities. Temple University's subsidy would be $98 million, down from nearly $140 million this fiscal year, or a 30 percent decrease; Penn State's funding would dwindle to $163 million from $227 million, a 28 percent decrease; and the University of Pittsburgh, from $136 million to $95 million, a 30 percent decrease. Funding for Lincoln University would remain at this year's $11.1 million level.

The 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, including West Chester and Cheyney, would see their funding cut from $412 million to $330 million, a 20 percent decrease.

Also being slashed are many programs that fall under the state Department of Agriculture, including research and education initiatives and grants for state fairs and other expositions.

Basic education funding for K-12 will receive a slight bump, from $5.3 billion this fiscal year to $5.4 billion. But those numbers don't tell the whole education story: there would be cuts to pre-K and Head Start funding.

Corbett also proposed slicing $100 million in accountability block grants to schools, which would translate into a $21.6 millon cut for the Philadelphia School District.

Corbett called his budget both "lean and demanding," one that imposes no new taxes and brings about reform that will, in his words change the culture of government from "one of entitlement to one of enterprise."

Corbett has said he has had to make difficult fiscal decisions in the face of a lackluster economy, dwindling state revenues and continuing deficits. This fiscal year, the governor and the legislature enacted a budget that decreased spending by 3 percent, primarily by slashing aid for public schools and universities by more than $1 billion and keeping a lid on the rising cost of social and human services.

Tax collections so far this year have not given administration officials much hope that the state's fiscal situation will improve. At the end of December - the midpoint of the current fiscal year - state tax collections were already under projections by nearly $500 million, or 4 percent.

That prompted Corbett to order a midyear spending freeze of less than 1 percent that left the budget at $26.9 billion this year, about the same amount spent in fiscal year 2007-08.

Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934, or @AngelasInk on Twitter.

Correction: This story was updated to reflect that accountability grant to the Philadelphia School District would be cut by $21.6 million, not $35 million.

comments powered by Disqus