The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 109-92 Tuesday to approve a state budget that sets spending at $27.3 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year — the same amount proposed in Governor Tom Corbett's March budget plan.
The budget cuts $1 billion from public schools and reduces Governor Corbett's budget by $471 million for health and human services for women, children and people with disabilities. It fails to enact a drilling tax on natural gas and leaves untouched a $500 million state revenue surplus.
Philadelphia GOP Representatives Dennis O'Brien and John Taylor joined all Democrats (except Representative Kenyatta Johnson, who was absent) to vote against the bill. All other Republicans (except Representative Nick Miccarelli, who was absent) voted in favor of the bill.
According to The Associated Press, at least 74 members spoke on the bill — which House Speaker Sam Smith said might constitute a record.
Now all eyes will be on the Senate, which will likely take up the bill in early June and move the process closer to a resolution.
In the House debate, many members raised concerns about cuts to schools, colleges, hospitals and services for the most vulnerable, and made the case for using the state's $500 million revenue surplus. Otherwise, several members said, we will be facing higher property taxes, crowded classrooms for our kids and increased college tuition costs.
We have been saying for weeks that the House budget is a step backwards that keeps most of the cuts to schools and colleges while slashing human services. It will cost jobs in hospitals and puts health care at risk for 100,000 vulnerable families, seniors and people with disabilities.
Pennsylvania has the money to restore many of these cuts today. Lawmakers should use the $500 million surplus to restore cuts to schools and human services, and prevent local property tax increases. If you agree, Better Choices for Pennsylvania has an Action Page where you can send a message to your Senator in support of a more responsible budget.
If you want more details, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has a thorough analysis of the House budget (House Bill 1485). Better Choices for Pennsylvania also has talking points on the House budget.