Senator Brooks’ Budget Reaction

Sen. Michele Brooks offered the following statement on the 2018-2019 budget:

Todn reflects the challenges of our time, and balances our priorities,” Sen. Brooks said.

Today, the state Senate approved a balanced, fiscally responsible budget for 2018-2019 that requires no new taxes, and increases funding for education, school safety initiatives, agriculture, critical access hospitals, and Lyme disease, said Sen. Michele Brooks.

“This solid budget is the product of working together,” Sen. Brooks said.

Sen. Brooks said the final spending total of $32.7 billion represents a growth rate below the rate of inflation and limits spending growth to approximately two percent –which is half the growth rate proposed by the governor.  It allocates money to the state’s Rainy Day fund and eliminates the governor’s proposed $25 per-person fee that was to be levied on residents living in areas with no local police force, and who rely on the State Police for coverage.

Contained in House Bill 2121, the legislation passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 188 to 10, and the Senate by a vote of 47 to 2.

The budget also makes a historic investment in school safety, with more than $60 million in new funding allocated for school resource officers, security equipment and other proven safety methods.

“I insisted that flexibility be built into school safety funding in the budget,” Sen. Brooks said. “This budget will allow schools to tailor school safety funds to their unique needs, instead of taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.  In combination with school infrastructure improvements, we also invested in mental health treatment.”

Agriculture funding was restored in the budget, at a time when the dairy industry is struggling after the loss of several major contracts and farmers are unable to get into their wet fields. Funding to the Department of Agriculture was increased more than $7 million over the current year’s budget.

“The last thing we should be doing is reducing our investment in agriculture,” Sen. Brooks said.

“As a state, we need to be proactive in combatting the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive species that threatens the grape, maple, hops and logging industries,” Sen. Brooks said.  Products in 13 Pennsylvania counties remain under quarantine to prevent the pest from spreading to other parts of the state, leading the state to include $3 million in the budget to help stop the spread.

For the first time ever, $2.5 million has been added to the budget for Lyme disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment, a priority Sen. Brooks emphasized after holding a hearing on Lyme disease in October. Pennsylvania leads the nation in Lyme disease cases.

A significant part of the additional spending is devoted to education for preschool and grades kindergarten through 12.  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.

Community colleges and career and technical education will also see a boost in funding.

“Ensuring that students have access to high-quality career and technical education gives them skills for the work force of the future,” Sen. Brooks said.

Higher education is also a priority in the budget. State System of Higher Education funding for Edinboro, Clarion, Slippery Rock and other state-owned universities will increase by 3.3 percent, and funding for state-related universities, such as Pitt, Temple and Penn State, will increase by three percent.

“Understanding the importance of strengthening rural health care, I fought to include an approximate $3 million increase for critical access hospitals, which include Titusville and Corry Hospitals,” she added.

“This spending plan reflects the challenges of our time, and balances our priorities,” Sen. Brooks said.

Contact: Diane McNaughton (717) 787-1322 dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov