As Pennsylvania returns to normal following a year of unprecedented isolation, restrictions, and life-altering measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for state leaders to chart a responsible path toward stability, not only for today but also for tomorrow. With the passage of the 2021-22 fiscal year budget, the General Assembly has accomplished just that.
We delivered a spending plan that keeps year-over-year growth in line to reflect a continuing pandemic-related economic recovery while also prudently saving money to prepare for future economic uncertainty. The budget makes a historic $2.5 billion deposit into the state’s Rainy Day Fund and preserves roughly two-thirds of the federal funding Pennsylvania received in the American Rescue Plan to be responsibly used over the next couple of years.
Democrats in the General Assembly have been clear that they would have spent every penny in the state’s coffers, including all of the one-time federal funds. History teaches us, however, that we cannot repeat that mistake again.
Pennsylvania last received federal relief dollars following the 2008 recession. Gov. Ed Rendell, with the help of the House Democrats who were in the majority at the time, went on a spending spree, using one-time federal funds to grow recurring expenditures. The move culminated in Gov. Tom Corbett facing a $4 billion deficit in his first year in office.
In contrast, the 2021-22 fiscal year budget represents a fiscally responsible path forward by wisely managing the influx of one-time federal funds. It also meets the needs of Pennsylvania families, prioritizes the education of every child, protects our most vulnerable citizens, and invests in infrastructure jobs.
The budget supports the educational opportunities for children throughout Pennsylvania by increasing basic education funding by $300 million, with one-third of these funds targeted to our poorest school districts; increasing early childhood education funding by $30 million; and increasing special education funding by $50 million. All told, we invest a record high $13.55 billion into PreK-12 education. Almost $350 million in federal relief funds are also allocated to support children who have suffered educational losses through learning loss, summer enrichment and after school programs. We also increased the Educational Improvement Tax Credit by a historic $40 million to support additional scholarships for students who choose to attend a private school they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
Recognizing the ongoing costs related to COVID-19 mitigation, the budget allocates $282 million in federal relief funds to help nursing homes, assisted living and personal care homes with costs related to personal protective equipment, staff testing and other pandemic-related costs. We are also protecting our most vulnerable citizens by ensuring they have the services they need, including services for an additional 832 people living with intellectual disabilities and home and community-based services for 501 additional older Pennsylvanians. Lastly, a new annual funding stream was created to provide $9.3 million for pediatric cancer research.
To support critical road and bridge projects, and to make up for pandemic-related losses in the Motor License Fund, we allocated $279 million in federal relief funds for transportation infrastructure. The budget also maintains support for Pennsylvania agriculture by maintaining funding for key operational and research needs. We allocated $44 million in federal relief funds for career and technical schools to ensure that students can learn the skills needed for the jobs that are available today and repealed the costly overtime regulations that Gov. Tom Wolf forced upon our small businesses.
The 2021-22 fiscal year budget delivers on the promise we made during last year’s election that we would continue to be good fiscal stewards of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money, while prioritizing educational opportunities, support for our most vulnerable, and economic prosperity.
Stan Saylor (R – Red Lion)
House Appropriations Committee Chairman
94th Legislative District