HARRISBURG, June 25, 2021 – With help for pandemic-stricken Pennsylvanians falling far short of needs, state Sen. Jim Brewster said today he voted to approve Pennsylvania’s state budget because it meets one of his priorities: getting help to struggling Pennsylvanians immediately.
“It’s disappointing to me that we would stash money in a vault when it’s needed out on Main Street,” Brewster said. “The pandemic left small businesses, schools, and essential workers struggling to stay afloat and the majority in Harrisburg wants to keep the life preservers on the boat. I don’t get it.”
At the same time, Brewster said, a long budget impasse could be even worse.
“We’ve said all along that we wanted to send relief immediately and that will happen,” he said. “But we will continue to talk with those who are struggling to find ways to loosen Harrisburg’s grip on federal stimulus funds that rightfully belong to those hurt by the pandemic. This isn’t over.”
The budget takes steps toward fair funding for schools but falls short of the goals Brewster and other Democrats had laid out for a $3 billion surplus and $7 billion federal stimulus. Much of that funding is set aside for future needs in the budget agreement passed late Friday.
“I will continue to fight for more money, fairly distributed, for schools, businesses and vulnerable individuals,” Brewster said. “As we move forward, tangible results from these investments will be the best argument for additional resources.”
Setting aside $2.5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, and reserving most of the federal stimulus for future use, the spending plan contains no tax increases and injects $300 million in additional funds for K-12 education.
Brewster said the $200 million over four years for higher education does not provide adequate resources to avoid cuts and consolidation for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, but the surplus set aside means students, faculty and residents of affected communities still have an opportunity to make their voices heard.
“No one can say there’s no money to help our state schools,” Brewster said. “We can still let the General Assembly know that value-oriented college education is a priority that deserves consideration when there is money stashed away in a vault.”
Increased education line items this year include:
- $300 million in basic education
- $200 funded through the Fair Funding Formula
- $100 million for Level Up, a new effort provide funding for schools that have been historically underfunded
- $20 million for Ready to Learn block grants
- $25 million for Pre K Counts
- $5 million for Headstart
- $50 million for special education
- $11 million for early intervention
- $200 million for PASSHE, over 4 years, including funding for the Diversity, Education & Inclusion program proposed by Senate Democrats.
“The work doesn’t end because at the constitutional deadline to pass a budget,” Brewster said. “Allies in the General Assembly and advocates across the state are gearing up for continued effort to expand educational opportunities for all students at all levels. We’ve taken some steps but there’s a long way to go.”