CONTRIBUTORS

Responsible state budget moves Pennsylvania forward, tackles big issues

State Rep. Stan Saylor
94th District
FILE - This Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, file photo shows the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The recently enacted state budget is the most comprehensive budget-related legislative package that Harrisburg has delivered in a long time. Quite simply, it is a budget that puts the needs of the people before the needs of the government.

When discussions on the budget began five months ago, we warned against the dangers of caving to temptation in spending too much while we face so much economic uncertainty.

The recently enacted state budget met that goal, while making targeted investments that move Pennsylvania forward and returning money to taxpayers.

Stan Saylor represents the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 94th District.

The budget reflects the sound financial principle of saving for tomorrow by growing our Rainy Day Fund to $5 billion — a historic amount — while carrying forward a significant budget balance to help guard against a projected recession and anticipated state revenue shortfalls.

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We used a one-time influx of funds to pay off over $2 billion in budgetary debts incurred in prior years, some of which dated all the way back to the Rendell administration. We had the dollars now and it was the responsible thing to do.

To encourage job growth, we put Pennsylvania on the path to being more attractive to job creators large and small. Pennsylvania has long been tagged with having the second highest Corporate Net Income Tax in the nation. We are finally addressing that by initiating the first reduction since 1995. Additionally, we are making it easier for our small businesses to grow and invest in their business by allowing them to deduct a greater share of equipment purchases, matching a tax policy in place in 33 other states.

With record high inflation, we also provided relief for working families and seniors by enacting a first-ever Pennsylvania child care tax credit, which will piggyback on the federal credit and provide a 30% match for working families. We also used one-time federal funding to provide for a one-time 70% enhancement for the Property Tax and Rent Rebate program for seniors.

Significantly, the budget provides for an $850 million increase in basic and special education subsidies, enhancing our long-standing commitment to public school students and helping ensure school districts will not need to raise property taxes. It also makes a historic investment in school choice and makes new investments in school safety and mental health.

We renewed our commitment to safe communities by providing funding for violence prevention programs, gun violence investigation and prosecution, and local law enforcement support grants. We also took a significant step forward on addressing the mental health crisis in our communities by establishing a blue-ribbon commission to report back to the General Assembly on best practices, while setting funding aside in the amount of $100 million to address those best practices.

Significantly for York County, we also used $640 million in one-time federal funds to make the largest investment in our environment and agriculture community in decades through additional funding for clean streams, clean water, parks and forest repair, and additional support for our conservation districts. This will allow us to make significant progress toward meeting our Chesapeake Bay clean-up goals in a way that works for Pennsylvania, not one that is dictated by the EPA.

Lastly, the budget helps our most vulnerable and those who care for them. It includes increased rates for nursing homes at $35 per day and personal care homes at $200 a month, preserving critical care for our elderly. It also provides $3 billion for services for people living with intellectual disabilities, which will allow us to serve more individuals and supports rate increases for their caregivers. To preserve access to ambulance and EMS services, we provided a much-needed increase in Medicaid reimbursements to our ambulance companies. To ensure working families can access child care we provided relief to child care providers to help them keep the doors open.

State budgets are more than just a set of numbers. They are a mix of spending priorities, policy decisions and related legislation that has a significant impact on the lives of Pennsylvanians. This year’s comprehensive budget package is one that moves the Commonwealth in a better direction, puts us in sound financial order, and prioritizes the people of Pennsylvania.

— State Rep. Stan Saylor represents a portion of southern York County in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He currently serves as House Appropriations chairman.