Brewster: $215 Million in School Safety Grants Pass Senate

Brewster: $215 Million in School Safety Grants Pass Senate

Harrisburg – May 28, 2020 – Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said today that the Senate has passed legislation (House Bill 1210) to drive out nearly $215 million to help school districts pay for costs associated with protecting children, cleaning buildings and modifying structures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a necessary infusion of cash to help school districts protect children and adjust the footprint of facilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brewster said.  “School districts need additional funds to clean buildings, make social distancing modifications and purchase necessary equipment.”

Brewster said that nearly $200 million will be earmarked for school entities.  Each school district will receive at least $120,000, plus the districts will receive additional funds based on average daily enrollment of school districts — an additional $114 million will be available for distribution on a pro rata basis.  Career and technical schools, intermediate units and other schools will receive an allocation of $90,000.

The COVID-19 Disaster Emergency School Health and Safety Grants were previously known as the School Safety and Security Grant Program.  Brewster has served as a member of the School Safety and Security Committee distributing grants to school districts since its inception. 

The funding provided to school districts can be used for:  

  • Purchasing of cleaning and sanitizing products that meet Center for Disease Control (CDC) or Department of Health criteria;
  • Training and professional development of staff on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious disease;
  • Purchase of equipment, including personal protective equipment, thermometers, infrared cameras and other necessary items;
  • Modification of existing areas to effectuate appropriate social distancing to ensure the health and safety of students and staff;
  • Providing mental health services and supports, including trauma-informed education programs for students impacted by the COVID-19 disaster declaration;
  • Purchasing education technology for distance learning to ensure the continuity of education; and,
  • Other health and safety programs, items or services necessary to address the COVID-19 disaster emergency.

Brewster said that $150 million of the total funds to be distributed will come from federal CARES Act funding.  He said that in addition to the distribution to school districts, another $7.5 million will be used for community violence prevention grants.   There will also be $7.5 million available for intermediate units to address COVID-19 issues.

The bill returns to the state House for its consideration.

Brewster: Budget Makes Key Investments in Education, Human Services, Jobs

Harrisburg – Dec. 7, 2015 – State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) released the following statement after a $ 30.5 billion bipartisan state budget proposal cleared the Senate on a 43-7 vote today.

The spending plan includes a $ 460 million boost for education, an additional $ 300 million for human service programs, restoration of key job creation funds and it eliminates the $ 1.3 billion structural deficit that Gov. Tom Wolf inherited from the Corbett administration.

Though Brewster voted in support of Senate Bill 1073, the budget bill must be passed by the state House of Representatives and be signed by the governor in order for it to become law.

Brewster’s comments:

“The budget is now almost six months overdue and the whole process has been frustrating and difficult. The budget that the Senate passed today, with a strong bipartisan vote, invests heavily in education, safety net programs, job creation and it wipes away the $1.3 billion deficit that the governor inherited from the Corbett administration.

“This budget makes historic investments in education, provides key dollars for early childhood programming and boosts support for higher education. As important, human service fund restorations were included in this budget.

“There is a great deal to like about this approach to the state budget and I am pleased that it cleared the Senate and is poised for consideration by the House.

“Citizens have waited way too long for lawmakers to come together in support of reasonable state budget. It is now time to finish work on this budget so we can immediately help children, seniors and all taxpayers. “

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Republican Stopgap Budget a Non-Starter, Brewster says

Harrisburg – Sept. 18, 2015 – State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said today that the Senate Republican stopgap budget plan is a non-starter because it represents one-third of an already-vetoed budget and it does not include property tax relief or a reasonable Marcellus Shale extraction tax.

Brewster voted against the $11.22 billion Republican stopgap budget proposal. The Republican short-term budget, which would fund government through Oct. 31, 2015, was approved along party lines.

The Senate Republican stopgap budget (Senate Bill 1000) is roughly one-third of the Republican budget (House Bill 1192) that was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf in late June. Wolf has said that he plans to veto the stopgap if it reaches his desk.

Brewster’s comments:

“The Republican stopgap budget is simply a non-starter. The plan does not include property tax relief, nor does it have a responsible Marcellus Shale extraction tax that is tied to additional education funding.

“It is simply one-third of an already vetoed spending plan. Appropriately, the governor has pledged to veto this short-term effort. A stopgap spending plan addresses funding issues temporarily, but may result in more distress over the long-term. The whole exercise is a waste of time.

“Instead of working toward a comprehensive spending plan that includes real dollars for education, job creation, human services or deficit reduction, Republicans have refused to compromise and negotiate toward a resolution of the budget impasse.

“The governor has offered compromises and solutions on the two main Republican issues — pension reform and liquor sales — yet they continue to be inflexible. After more than two months of refusing to compromise, the best the Republicans can do is offer an unacceptable, short-term, short-sighted, deficient plan.”

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Brewster: ‘Extraction for Education’ Plan Would Help Move Budget Talks

Shale tax devoted to education; retains local government share

Harrisburg – July 21, 2015 – As Pennsylvania continues operating without a General Fund spending plan, state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said today that his “Extraction for Education” proposal could help move talks forward and bring closure to key budget issues: enhanced education funding and a new Marcellus Shale extraction tax.

In late June, the Republicans passed a $30.2 billion plan without input from Gov. Wolf or legislative Democrats.  Wolf vetoed the proposal.  The Republican plan did not include a new shale extraction tax and would have provided little new money for education.

Brewster said both sides need to come together and work on a dedicated education funding plan via a shale extraction tax.  His plan, he said, could help lay the foundation for a comprehensive budget solution because it would smooth over differences on key issues.

“My plan would place a responsible Marcellus Shale extraction tax layered over the current Act 13 impact fee,” Brewster said.  “The effective rate of the levy is 5 percent, which is reasonable and clearly in line with energy extraction taxes in other states.

“New tax revenues generated as a part of my plan would be entirely dedicated to education funding.”

Brewster’s “Extraction for Education” plan (Senate Bill 395) would cap the total severance tax levy and make the effective rate 5 percent. Under the plan, impact fee expenses (Act 13) would be credited against a shale driller’s extraction tax liability.

Brewster said that education funding, a reasonable extraction tax, property tax relief and covering a $1.3 billion structural deficit are critical budget issues that remain unresolved.

In March, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a bold funding plan that would reverse the $1 billion in education cuts over the last four years.  His budget proposal also calls for property tax relief and significant increases in education funding.

Brewster said a 5 percent energy tax may generate an estimated $700 million depending on the price of gas.  His plan specifically calls for the new revenues from the tax to be combined with additional state funding and distributed via the new basic education subsidy formula that was developed by the Basic Education Funding Commission.

“Shale drillers have a responsibility to pay a reasonable tax for reaping a Pennsylvania resource,” Brewster said.  “Under my plan they can be assured of a specific rate and their revenues would be used specifically to help school students and taxpayers.”

The lawmaker added that it is critical that a new energy extraction tax be levied at a rate that ensures market competitiveness.  Brewster was in private business for more than 20 years prior to his election to the Senate, rising to vice president of Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh.

“I’ve put my years of experience in private business and banking to use in helping me craft the approach so that it is balanced,” Brewster said.   “My plan is fair to the industry and the citizens of Pennsylvania.

“All funds that are generated will be used to help schools, taxpayers and children and not be used for anything else,” Brewster said. “The relationship between the shale extraction tax and education must be clear.”

Brewster said he is hopeful that Republican leadership will join with Gov. Wolf and Democratic lawmakers in forming a budget that prioritizes property tax relief, school funding and job creation.

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Brewster: Corbett Budget Hurts Schools and Families

HARRISBURG, Feb. 9, 2012 — State Sen. Jim Brewster today issued the following statement on Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2012-13 state budget proposal:

“The tragedy of this budget is that the governor could have brought in more revenue without raising taxes,” Brewster said. “Instead, struggling families are being called on to dig deeper in their pockets.

There is no shortage of pain. The Corbett budget would cut $400 million in educational line items, $15 million from job training programs; and $6 million from state veterans’ homes.

The governor also seems determined to again put off badly needed construction work on our crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems. I find it alarming that Pennsylvania built more bridges in 1930 than in the past three years combined.

The budget also targets vulnerable families that rely on social services and special needs support. We cannot turn our back on people struggling to get by in these difficult economic times.

And don’t believe it when pundits claim the Corbett budget ‘holds the line on taxes.’ The Corbett Administration’s continued abandonment of the state’s 50 percent school funding obligation will all but force local school boards to again hike property taxes.

What troubles me the most is that the cuts did not need to be so steep and painful. For example, closing the so-called Delaware corporate tax loophole and imposing a reasonable severance fee on gas drillers could have generated millions in revenue — without raising broad based taxes.

As the legislature begins budget deliberations, I hope to make the budget more balanced, equitable and less painful to families who rely on crucial services and programs. I look forward to working with the governor and all of my colleagues to accomplish this goal.”

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Sen. Brewster Announces $2.8 million Funding Restoration for Duquesne Schools

Harrisburg, June 29, 2011 – Calling it a “significant, yet inadequate” budget restoration, Sen. Jim Brewster today said he and state Rep. Marc Gergely were able to obtain an additional $2.825 million in state funding restorations for the Duquesne School District.

This hikes the state subsidy to Duquesne by about 33 percent over the $5.787 million the governor proposed in March,” Brewster said.

“Even though the district’s high school students now attend other schools, it is imperative that the state adequately fund an appropriate education for Duquesne students in grades K through eight. I will continue to work with Representative Gergely and other legislative colleagues to seek a lasting and permanent solution on how best to fund and educate Duquesne’s students.”

Brewster said the state could have provided additional funds to schools statewide if they would have tapped into the state’s $700 million budget surplus or imposed a moderate tax on the gas drilling industry.

“I will continue to be an ardent supporter of the Duquesne School District and all public education students,” Brewster said.

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Brewster Says State Budget Betrays Middle Class Taxpayers

Also Blasts State Community Takeover Bill

HARRISBURG, June 29, 2011 – State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) today said the new state budget and a state takeover bill aimed at struggling cities will hurt working families, spur drastic local tax increases and could force school districts and municipalities to mergers.

Brewster said the measures, which Republicans crafted behind closed doors with no Democratic input, would also hurt law enforcement and first-responders if mergers become a reality.

“Revenue has been ripped from our communities and school districts,” Brewster said. “This drop in state support will add undue burdens on already cash-strapped families.

“Look for a state takeover in a community near you. The passing of SB 1151 will allow the state to strip the rights of voters by usurping their elected leaders. This bill implements a management board and makes 53 communities across the state vulnerable to having the state take over their government’s operational and fiscal affairs.

Brewster said the “hypocrisy” of the budget can be summed up by governor’s unwillingness to impose an impact fee on one of the largest, most profitable industries in the world; and at the same time, refusing to use the state’s budget surplus, estimated at $700 million, to negate some of the brutal cuts to education, health care and emergency programs for homeowners.

“The ill effects of the budget will emerge with time and then, the good people of Pennsylvania will see firsthand what their governor has done to them, their families and their communities,” Brewster said.

The budget bill (HB 1485) passed the Senate by a vote of 30-20, along party lines. It is now in the House of Representatives for concurrence. Senate Bill 1151 passed the Senate 29-21, and is also under consideration in the House.

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Brewster, Gergely Call on Republicans to Honor Duquesne School Agreement

HARRISBURG – June 20 – As Republican lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett continue to adjust the state’s final spending plan behind closed doors, state Sen. Jim Brewster and state Rep. Marc Gergely are pressing that funding for the Duquesne City School District be included in the budget.

The state budget that passed the state House in May slashed funding for Duquesne by 36 percent and eliminated the special $2 million payment that was part of a legislative agreement to keep the school open.

“For too long, the school children and parents in the Duquesne City School District have been left to twist in the wind as they await their fiscal fate,” Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said. “This has become a tremendous strain and has needlessly created anxiety.”

Gergely (D-Allegheny) added, “Republican budget negotiators must meet the needs of Duquesne and provide answers to the students and parents about the future of the school.”

Several years ago, lawmakers crafted a relief plan that closed Duquesne High School in 2007, but retained the district’s elementary and middle school programs. The high school students were disbursed to East Allegheny and West Mifflin School Districts.

The state House passed a Republican budget that would cut $3 million in funding for Duquesne (from $9.86 million to $6.28 million).

“The closing of the high school and the integration of the students into the education programs at East Allegheny and West Mifflin was agreed to as a means to relieve fiscal pressure,” Gergely said.

The district pays $2.6 million in tuition to cover the cost of educating the senior high students. The district is considering laying off 35 of its remaining 94 teachers in an effort to provide a bare-bones education.

“The teacher layoffs combined with a pay freeze, the elimination of sports and extracurricular activities that has been suggested as a way to deal with the deficit doesn’t solve the fiscal problems,” Brewster said. “While we discuss these draconian actions, the state is sitting on a $500 million state revenue surplus that can be used to replenish funds for Duquesne.”

Gergely added, “Duquesne students should not be a pawn in the budget games that Republicans are playing – when there is $500 million plus in revenues that are available.”

Both Brewster and Gergely said they are hopeful they can fashion a long term solution for Duquesne and provide some guidance for the district’s children in future years.

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Brewster Backs Senate Democratic Budget Restoration Proposal

Bill would save over $1 Billion to Restore Education Funding and More

McKeesport – April 15, 2011 – State Sen. Jim Brewster and fellow Senate Democrats have unveiled a budget plan that would generate $1.14 billion in savings to restore funding for basic and higher education, safety net programs, mortgage assistance and other vital programs.

“There seems to be near universal support for restoring some or all of these budget line items,” Brewster said. “Our proposal restores funding without raising taxes or cutting other vital services or programs.

Brewster said the Democratic plan is in response to Gov. Tom Corbett’s March budget proposal where he called for steep funding cuts to school districts and colleges, social services, hospitals, health insurance programs, job creation programs and county subsidies.

The Senate Democratic plan would:

  • save $750 million from fiscal responsibility initiatives in Public Welfare, Corrections, procurement and by maximizing revenues;
  • save $290 million through a tax fairness initiative would place a moderate tax on gas drillers while freezing the governor’s other proposed corporate tax breaks; and
  • generate $100 million more by giving the state store system more procurement and marketing flexibility.

Brewster said Senate Democratic appropriations officials have projected $300 million fiscal year-end revenue surplus – far higher than the $78 million projected in the Corbett budget proposal. He said the higher surplus would hopefully enable lawmakers to make even more restorations.

Brewster added that creating jobs remains the key to solving the state’s revenue and economic woes. He and his fellow Senate Democrats have proposed a sweeping jobs plan called “PA Works” that would create jobs, leverage private funds and generate economic investment.

“There are some great ideas in both our jobs and budget restoration plans,” Brewster said. “I hope legislative Republicans and the governor provide us an opportunity to fully air, discuss and mix some of these solutions into the final budget this year.”

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Brewster: Budget Cuts Will Hurt Local Municipalities and School Districts

Harrisburg – March 9, 2011 – Sen. Jim Brewster today provided the following reaction to Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget address:

“While spending cuts and better spending practices will need to occur at every government level, we must resist ‘passing the buck’ to local governments and school districts. The governor’s proposed budget cuts to education would force municipalities to raise taxes to make up for the loss of state funding to their school districts.

“This is the time to focus on new revenue. One way to do this is to tax the drilling companies extracting gas from Marcellus Shale across the commonwealth. There are approximately 5,800 permitted wells across Pennsylvania and we are the only major gas-producing state without a severance tax.

“A few weeks ago, my Democratic colleagues and I proposed a six-point plan aimed at stoking our economy and creating jobs while reducing state spending. We must put people to work. The democratic package, “PA Works,” would help small businesses be more competitive, strengthen and streamline workforce training programs, make targeted investments in clean and green energy industries, invest in public works projects, save money by streamlining government programs and lower small business taxes.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the months ahead to pass a budget that spurs economic development, and protects our public schools and local municipalities.”

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