ShareThis Page

State budget headed for votes would cut spending 4.1 percent

| Monday, June 27, 2011

HARRISBURG -- The proposed state budget likely to face votes in the Senate and House this week will be smaller than this year's by $1.1 billion, a decrease of 4.1 percent from the current budget, according to a copy posted online this afternoon by House Republicans.

Spending would fall from $28.3 billion this year to $27.145 billion in the 2011-12 budget year that begins July 1.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who won office in November on a pledge to get state spending under control and shrink government, insisted that the budget not exceed $27.3 billion.

A proposed 4 percent budget cut is likely unprecedented in modern history, said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster County. "This is pretty remarkable," said Madonna. "I don't remember a time in modern history" that spending was cut.

The smallest budget change previously was in 1996-97 under former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge, when spending increased by 0.6 percent, according to the governor's budget office.

Republican House and Senate leaders crafted the budget with Corbett, in closed-door meetings. The spreadsheets on state spending first became available today.

House and Senate Democrats throughout the day ripped the spending cuts, noting the current budget year will finish with a surplus of $600 million to $700 million.

Corbett said the cuts are necessary to close a $4 billion deficit -- most of it stemming from the loss of federal stimulus money. Senate Democrats maintain the deficit was only $2.8 billion when Corbett proposed his budget in March.

Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, said there is no surplus. He likened it to someone maxed out on their credit cards, finding $10 in the clothes dryer.

The $28.3 billion figure in the current budget included more than $3 billion in federal stimulus money. Those funds dried up for 2011-12.

The basic education subsidy for K-12 schools will drop less than a fraction of a percentage point (0.62 percent) from $5.4 billion to $5.35 billion, a cut of $33.6 million, according to the House GOP printout. However, schools also will lose $655 million in stimulus funds they got this year.

Special Education funding remains flat at a little more than $1 billion.

Overall K-12 spending, for all programs including basic ed, special education, intermediate units, school food programs and services to non-public schools -- to name a few -- would fall about $818 million, or 7.8 percent. The appropriation would decrease from $10.4 billion to about $9.6 billion.

Corbett proposed 50 percent cuts for higher education, but Republican lawmakers balked. The University of Pittsburgh's appropriation will decrease 19 percent under the budget agreement -- which includes a loss of $7.5 million in federal stimulus funds. The state appropriation is decreasing 15 percent, said House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware County.

Pitt's overall appropriation would decline from $167.9 million to $136 million.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.