Scarnati Hails Passage of On-Time, No-Tax State Budget That Invests in Education, New School Safety Initiatives

(HARRISBURG) – The state Senate today approved a fiscally responsible budget for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 that holds the line on spending, increases funding for education and school safety initiatives and includes no new taxes, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).

“Completion of the 2018-2019 State Budget over a week before the June 30th budget deadline is a true testament to what can be accomplished when we work together,” Scarnati said. “Just as in previous years, Senate Republicans’ goal continues to be protecting taxpayers from broad-based tax increases that have been detrimental to Pennsylvania in the past. I am confident that this budget will set our state on a path toward more quality jobs, better government, and safer schools.”

The budget also includes $60 million in new money for initiatives to protect schools and students from violence.  The new funding is in addition to the $10 million dedicated to an existing grant program created in 2013 by a law authored by Scarnati.

The two grant programs will provide funding for a variety of measures designed to improve student safety and reduce school violence, including:

  • hiring school police officers, school resource officers, counselors and/or mental health counselors;
  • alternative education and diversion programs;
  • violence prevention initiatives;
  • school safety and emergency preparedness plans;
  • physical upgrades to school buildings and equipment to improve safety.

“School districts will be able to apply for grants to undertake both of these important services, as well as pay for physical upgrades to school buildings and campuses, hire school security guards and implement education programs to address school violence,” Scarnati said.  “Our goal is to ensure local control to allow each school district to evaluate its needs and vulnerabilities and apply for funding to shore up any weaknesses that exist.”

In addition to the school safety funding, a significant part of the additional spending in the budget is devoted to education. The budget increases funding for Basic Education by $100 million, Pre-K Counts and Head Start by $25 million, and Special Education by $15 million.  Educational Improvement Tax Credits – which help students trapped in failing schools – will also see a $25 million increase.

Higher education is also a priority in the budget. State System of Higher Education funding will increase by 3.3 percent, and funding for state-related universities will increase by 3 percent. Community colleges will also see a 3 percent boost in funding.

Additional funding is also included for the Pennsylvania State Police to train three new cadet classes, which will result in nearly 300 additional troopers.

Other budget highlights include additional funding for:

  • Services for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • Home and community-based services for an additional 5,230 seniors and those with physical disabilities.
  • Child care services to an additional 1,600 children.
  • Home visit services for 800 families impacted by the opioid epidemic.
  • Career and Technical Education to ensure Pennsylvania’s workforce keeps pace with the demands of the labor market.

The budget also recognizes the importance of three industries that have historically been among Pennsylvania’s most critical sectors of the economy: agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, restoring funding that the Governor’s original budget plan cut.

“Passing a fiscally responsible budget this year is an absolute necessity in the face of the daunting challenges we will face in the years to come,” Scarnati said.  “But with those challenges come new opportunities that could set our Commonwealth on the path to a brighter economic future.”

CONTACT: Kate Flessner kflessner@pasen.gov (717) 787-7084