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.
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.
“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. “
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.
“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.”
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.
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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