Mentzer, Brubaker pleased with state budget First-year legislator applauds fiscal constraint
Casting his first state budget vote as a first-year legislator, Rep. Steven Mentzer expressed his support for a fiscally responsible plan he says funds Pennsylvania’s priorities without asking for more from taxpayers.
The final 2013-14 budget, approved Sunday, sets a total spending amount at $28.4 billion, about a 2.3 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
"I was both excited and apprehensive throughout the budget process in Harrisburg," Mentzer said. "I’ll tell you – it isn’t easy to crunch those numbers, but I was glad to see an on-time budget that funds the core functions of government appropriately without any tax increases."
Specifically, the final budget offers a $122 million increase for basic education. It supports the safety of Pennsylvania citizens by providing funding for the hiring of nearly 300 new state troopers, and restores funding for programs for people with diseases like diabetes, ALS, lupus and epilepsy.
"This budget increases investments in certain areas while maintaining a spending level that is within our means," Mentzer said. "Most of the spending increases would go toward education, medical care programs, programs for seniors, pension plan payments and services for those with disabilities and special needs."
In addition, $20 million was provided to reduce the waiting list for individuals with intellectual disabilities, $50 million was dedicated to expand home and community-based services for seniors, and $10 million was set aside for long-term senior care.
"While I was disappointed that we did not see progress on other major issues facing our state, I was glad to be able to cast a vote for a sound economic roadmap that continues to hold state government accountable to taxpayers," said Mentzer.
Sen. Mike Brubaker
The 2013-14 state budget has been signed into law – a spending plan that invests in jobs, education and public safety, supports essential services, and maintains fiscal restraint by holding the line on taxes, according to Senator Mike Brubaker, chairman of the Finance Committee.
The $28.375 billion spending plan represents a modest 2.3 percent increase over the current year’s spending. The budget does not include any increase in broad-based state taxes.
"Tax rates and fiscal health are important considerations for employers who are looking to expand or relocate to our communities, so it is essential to budget responsibly and sustainably without new taxes," Brubaker said. "Holding the line on spending and taxes for families and businesses is a positive step toward returning our state and region to sustained economic growth."
Reaffirming a commitment to education, the budget provides a 2.4 percent increase (or $129.9 million for a total of $5.53 billion) to Pennsylvania’s public schools. This state support for early childhood education programs includes the Pre-K Counts program and Head Start Assistance. The spending plan provides additional funding for Safe School Initiatives as well.
Similarly, the budget supports Pennsylvania’s law enforcement and public safety programs. Some of these programs include funding for three new State Police cadet courses and overall increases for the Child Predator Interceptor Unit and a new Mobile Street Crimes Unit.
The 2013-14 budget also provides overall funding increases to the state Department of Community and Economic Development with a focus on promoting business development and job creation in Pennsylvania.
"The end result of this budget is both fiscally responsible, allowing us to live within our means, and it serves the needs of Pennsylvanians in all corners of the state," he said. "Although I cannot hide my disappointment with the Legislature’s inability to agree on reform to our pension system at this time, I do believe that we can work diligently in the near future to address this issue and ensure a plan is adopted that is fair, sustainable and more aligned with the private sector."
More BUDGET, page A7