PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With a Thursday deadline looming, Republican legislative leaders in Harrisburg began on Monday to release details of their budget agreement with Gov. Tom Corbett.
“Overall, we’re reducing expenditures, we’re reducing waste and we recognize we are fiscal stewards for the taxpayers,” said House Republican Majority Leader Mike Turzai, of McCandless.
He says the proposed budget calls for $27.15 billion in spending, about $1.2 billion less than the last budget.
When Gov. Corbett offered his first budget last February, he warned of deep cuts in a number of programs. Now, Republican leaders in the General Assembly have signed off on a budget that restores some funding but keeps the Governor’s bottom line and doesn’t raise taxes.
“I think it’s a responsible budget,” says Turzai. “It’s fiscally responsible. It’s on time. It shows that we are ready to govern.”
But Democratic Senate Leader Jay Costa of Forest Hills says the budget cuts are too steep and will be felt by taxpayers.
“In time, when we wake up over the course of the next several weeks, several months, we’re going to recognize and realize that we’ve impacted the lives of a lot of people,” notes Costa.
Democrats, who were never included in the negotiations, complained that Republican budget cuts will eliminate $800 million in state support for public education.
“We’ve had school districts laying off teachers, staff, charging fees to participate in extracurricular activities, raising the price of school lunches and raising property taxes,” says House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody of Oakmont.
Republican leaders did add about $230 million to basic education that Gov. Corbett had cut. They also restored some of the cuts to state universities, too. The Governor had wanted to cut state support for the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State and other state-related universities by 50 percent.
“We’ve restored almost 30 percent of the money to the universities in this state,” says Turzai.
Dermody say that’s not enough and will hurt students and their families.
“It’s a significant cut and will result in tuition increases no doubt and cuts in programs,” he said.
Democrats say some of the $700 million surplus should have been used to soften the budget cuts, but Republicans want to keep it in a rainy day fund for one simple reason.
“It’s not clear the economy is going to get better,” says Turzai.