Education cuts lead the way in Gov. Tom Corbett’s $27.3 billion budget plan.
The Republican proposes reducing funds for Pennsylvania colleges from $1.5 billion to $836 million. He’d also shave about $550 million from the state subsidy to local school districts.
Gov. Ed Rendell pushed to increase that line item every year, but Corbett’s budget secretary called its rate of growth “unsustainable.”
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa called the cuts “unconscionable.”
“Somebody just asked the question about, ‘How are we going to deal with that?’ The outcome is simple: it’s going to mean higher tuition costs for our families that are already struggling to put their kids through school,” Costa said.
While every Republican leader praised Corbett’s spending plan, most of them stayed away from endorsing the higher-education reductions. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jake Corman’s non-answer summed up the typical GOP response: “You know, the governor laid out a blueprint today. So I think now it’s important for us to do our job. To allow the institutions to come in, to allow the students to come in, to make their case on how this would impact higher education, both from a tuition perspective, from an infrastructure perspective,” he said. “And then allow the governor–we just heard his speech, we haven’t had a chance to go through it with him–articulate his vision on higher education for Pennsylvania’s future.”
On top of the spending reductions, Corbett asked public school employees to accept a one-year pay freeze, which he claims could save $400 million.
“Trust me–you’ll have plenty of company out there to keep them warm. With unemployment running over 8 percent, working people across the state are going without pay raises. Or they’re giving back to keep their companies afloat,” he said.
The governor also told public employee unions he’ll push for benefit cuts in upcoming negotiations. “I want to be clear about this to our union leaders: collective bargaining doesn’t mean some ill-defined middle ground. It means finding a spot where things work,” he said. “In this case, it’s going to have to work for the good of the taxpayer, or it’s not going to work at all.”
Corbett’s budget would lead to 1,550 public employee layoffs, according to the administration’s budget book. More than 1,200 of those positions would come from the Department of Public Welfare, even though the agency’s overall budget would increase. In all, 19 agencies would see reduced funding. Four would receive level funding, and 12 would get an increase.
“I said we’d cut,” said Corbett at the beginning of his speech. “I’m not asking you to read my lips. I’m asking you to read my budget.”