Bill funds vital agriculture, education, opioid addiction & public health programs
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Senate has given approval to a $31.99 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2017-18 that restores severe cuts and programs that were included in the initial House-approved bill, according to Senator Gene Yaw (R-23).
With a 43-7 vote Friday, the Senate sent the budget bill back to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
“The operating budget approved today meets the core responsibilities of government and still funds the priorities shared by both parties,” Sen. Yaw said. “This measure maintains a quality education system, promotes job growth and addresses some of the most serious challenges facing our communities including the growing heroin and opioid epidemic.”
The spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is nearly $650 million less than Governor Wolf’s original budget request and will result in the first decrease in spending on the state’s criminal justice system in years.
Key agricultural programs, including the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, have been restored and funding for agriculture promotion, education and export programs have been increased. Dollars have also been maintained for the state’s conservation district programs.
The budget increases the state’s share of PreK-12 funding to a historic high of $11.8 billion and Basic Education Funding increases by $100 million from $5,895,079,000 to $5,995,079,000.
The spending plan also allocates $7 million to combat heroin and opioid addiction, including funds to expand access to life-saving naloxone and to support additional drug courts.
Additionally, the bill provides for a thorough review process examining the merger of the Departments of Human Services and Health into a single Department of Health and Human Services. This review process will ensure the General Assembly has the opportunity to consider outside input and gives adequate time to fully review the consolidation.
The general appropriations bill represents a 0.2 percent increase over the current year’s budget, and well below the rate of inflation.
Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff