State lawmakers this week are expected to approve a $27.7 billion budget for the new fiscal year that begins Sunday, July 1.
In his February budget address, Governor Tom Corbett outlined a $27.14 billion spending plan, but after closed-door discussions with Republican legislative leaders, he agreed to come up to the $27.66 billion level proposed by the Senate. Some of the addition $500 million would go to reducing the governor’s proposed cuts to education.
Democrats, who are in the minority in both the House and Senate, were not included in the budget talks with the governor and have little or no say on the final spending plan, but are speaking out.
House minority leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) said the governor agreeing to come up from his original budget figure to the Senate proposal is a very small step.
“Does it help? Of course it helps,” Dermody said. “But keep in mind it doesn’t do anything to help take care of the cuts implemented in last year’s budget, over a billion dollars in K-12, a huge cut in higher ed, and there’ll be another cut in higher ed here [this year]. This is just putting back in the Draconian cuts, or some of it, back from what the governor proposed in February.”
But Dermody said the Corbett Administration is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Based on what the June revenue figures are, the projections from the independent fiscal office in our appropriations committees, that there’s like $800 million left there that they could use without raising taxes to help restore those cuts,” Dermody said.
He wants that money to further reduce cuts in appropriations for school districts and the 14 state-owned and four state-related universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, and to alleviate the 10% reductions in funding for human service programs at the county level.
Still, Dermody doesn’t expect the final budget to go beyond the Senate-proposed 27.7 billion.