Gov. Tom Corbett delivered highlights of his proposed 2013-14 budget in a speech before the state Legislature on Tuesday morning.
The $28.4 billion state budget plan, a 2.4 percent increase over this year, includes no general tax increases.
In one of the most controversial areas, Corbett recommended against expanding Medicaid, as provided for under the Affordable Health Care Act. Corbett plans to ask the federal government for flexibililty to let Pennsylvania customize the health insurance program for its needs or have the state reject the Medicaid expansion.
Under the act, also known as Obamacare, Medicaid could expand to cover people earning up to 133 percent of the poverty level and provide coverage for upwards of 600,000 uninsured Pennsylvania residents. The federal government said it will cover 100 percent of the benefit costs for the expansion until 2020, and 90 percent after that.
"One half-million working families need health care and that what this program can do," said Sen. Jay Costa, state Senate minority floor leader, when interviewed on PCN (Pennsylvania Cable Network) after the governor's presentation.
Opponents of the proposals said the budget comes up short in some other areas. Costa said the proposal did not address jobs creation.
But supporters felt the governor's proposal does do that.
"By taking steps to reform and reduce our tax burden, Pennsylvania is on track for yet another influx of jobs and economic activity," Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason said in a press statement following the speech. "Gov. Corbett’s budget will see that Pennsylvania tackles pension and liquor reforms along with our transportation infrastructure that hasn’t been approached in more than 30 years.”
Corbett suggested privatizing liquor sales and using the money saved toward funding education. The proposed budget steers $5.4 billion in new money over five years for enhanced maintenance of and improvements to roads, bridges and public transit systems.
With the proposal on the table, the state House and Senate can start hashing out details for the 2013-14 budget, which must be approved by the end of June.
The full text of Corbett's speech can be found by clicking here. Some of the other highlights are:
- Adding $6.4 million dollars toward Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs. This money gives an additional 3,200 children, and their families, access to quality full and part-day programs as well as summer kindergarten readiness programs.
- Expanding funding for K-through-12 education by adding nearly $100 million dollars to be distributed to school districts "over and above last year's record funding levels," Corbett said.
- Maintains $1.58 billion full-funding levels for state and state-related universities.
- "Passport for Learning" Block Grant provides $1 billion dollar program to enrich public schools over the next four years with: "Ready by 3" that enhances elementary reading and mathematics through third grade, customized learning plans, funding to invest in programs and equipment that support science and math in grades six through 12, and providing schools money to invest in the necessary safety and security measures.
- Calls on the legislature to pass a 17 percent reduction in the flat liquid fuels tax paid by consumers at the pump.
- Begin a five-year phase out of an artificial and outdated cap on the tax paid by oil and gas companies on the wholesale price of gasoline.
- No cuts to any retiree benefits for state employees or public school teachers.
- The budget will provide another $140 million dollars in pension savings for school districts across the state.
- Create a new 401(k)-style retirement benefit for future employees consistent with the retirement packages of private sector employees.
Health and Human Services
- Dedicates $40 million dollars to provide critical services to an additional 3,000 men, women and children with physical and intellectual disabilities. This will allow them to live independently in their homes and communities.
- Proposed budget includes more than $8 million dollars in additional resources to provide health care coverage to more than 9,300 additional children through CHIP.
- Adds $50 million dollars for senior programs.
Are you impacted by any of the budget proposals? Do you think the governor's plan is good or do you feel it doesn't address the Commonwealth's needs? Let us know in the comments section.