Monday, June 30, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 30: No-tax budget teed up for final votes Monday/ Philly school funding tangled up in Pa. budget battle

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 30, 2014:
No-tax budget  teed up for final votes Monday/ Philly school funding tangled up in Pa. budget battle


Pa. lawmakers punch in late for final budget push: Monday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  on June 30, 2014 at 8:20 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Well, this is it -- the final day of the 2013/14 fiscal year. It's the first day of the rest of our lives.
Or it's the first day of the rest of July if lawmakers fail to have a spending plan and its accoutrements in place roundabout midnight tonight.  Legislators returned to work last night to push some papers around while the grown-ups got about the business of getting a budget in place. The $29.1 billion spending plan the House approved week cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee last night, putting it in position for a vote later today.
How do they pay for everything without a tax increase? Excellent question - glad you asked.

Pennsylvania's 2014-15 state budget is set up for Monday passage
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com 
on June 29, 2014 at 11:13 PM, updated June 30, 2014 at 7:03 AM
The proposed $29.1 billion plan will balance through a hopes for a return to strong economic growth, the shift of some $200 million in medical assistance and welfare costs to special funds and other accounting maneuvers.  But it does not raise taxes.
The plan raises total general fund spending about $500 million, or about 1.9 percent from current-year levels, according to Senate Appropriation Committee printouts.
It funds most of Gov. Tom Corbett's priorities – including a boost in k-12 education grants and pre-kindergarten programs and more funding to pare down waiting lists for services for adults with intellectual disabilities.  Lawmakers even retained a small line item directing funds to Children's Advocacy Centers, regional centers dedicated to the professional investigation of and response to child abuse.  It also, in what amounts to a major philosophical statement for lawmakers, makes the state's full payment for 2014-15 against what is a steadily-rising contribution to pension systems for state workers and public school teachers.

Pennsylvania lawmakers take up budget proposal again as deadline looms
By Kate Giammarise & Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau June 30, 2014 7:03 AM
HARRISBURG -- Senate Republicans on Sunday turned from an earlier openness on using taxes to close a state budget shortfall, sending toward the floor a trimmer spending plan than Gov. Tom Corbett proposed earlier in the year.  At $29.1 billion, the state general fund would be hundreds of millions of dollars smaller than Mr. Corbett called for in February, before months of poor revenue collections left Pennsylvania facing a budget gap of well more than $1 billion.
The Senate and House are expected to take up the proposal today with hopes of delivering the general appropriations bill to Mr. Corbett by the start of the new fiscal year at midnight.
Minority Democrats derided the plan, passed on a party-line vote, as based on overly-rosy revenue projections and too many one-time fund transfers.

Elected officials-only pension reform plan teed up for a vote in the Senate
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  on June 29, 2014 at 10:11 PM
It's not at all the sweeping pension reform that Gov. Tom Corbett sought but the Senate has now positioned a bill for a vote by that chamber that would move elected officials into a 401k-style plan like most private sector employees have.  The Senate Appropriations Committee tonight took the historic step of voting unanimously to approve the legislation that is hoped might grease the skids for a broader pension change later that Corbett wants.  He is urging the Legislature to reform the state pension systems to address the $47 billion debt for pension benefits that retired and current employees have accrued but the systems lack the money to provide and to prevent the system from getting into this financial bind again in the future.

Lawmakers propose new spending plan as Corbett pushes Philly-area Dems
By Brad Bumsted and Melissa Daniels Sunday, June 29, 2014, 7:33 p.m.
Updated 8 hours ago 
HARRISBURG — With one day left before the state's constitutional budget deadline, Gov. Tom Corbett on Sunday was coming up short of votes needed to push through his major agenda items: pension and liquor reform.  The General Assembly could vote on a state budget of about $29.1 billion on Monday before the midnight deadline, but changes to the state liquor and pension systems appear to be shelved as lawmakers prepare to recess for the summer this week. The state is grappling with a $1.4 billion deficit, and the budget proposal increases spending by $500 million without raising taxes.  The Senate Appropriations Commitee approved the plan in a 16-10 party line vote about 9 p.m., positioning the bill for a vote on the floor. The no-new-revenue plan includes a $300 million increase in basic funding for the state's 500 school districts, instead of the $241 million Corbett proposed in February.  Corbett, in a last-ditch effort, attempted a compromise with Philadelphia Democrats to vote for pension changes if he agrees to a cigarette tax in that city only to fund Philadelphia schools.  Sen. Vincent Hughes and other Philadelphia Democrats rejected the proposal.
Corbett could veto budget without pension changes
Senate panel responds with vote to remove all elected state officials and judges from pension system upon re-election.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 11:18 p.m. EDT, June 29, 2014
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett said Sunday he has not ruled out a veto of the state budget if lawmakers do nothing to address pension debt costs that are eating up more and more taxpayer money.  Corbett made that announcement at a news conference in his Capitol office as lawmakers continued their annual frenetic dance of trying to pass a new budget by 11:59 p.m. Monday.  If pension reforms are not made, Corbett said, local property taxes will keep rising to cover escalating costs to pay off old pension debt, not help students, Corbett said.
"We are seeing high pension costs killing our school districts all across Pennsylvania," Corbett said. "I'm urging the Legislature to continue to work on pension reform."
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association backed Corbett.  "Pennsylvania needs long-term pension reform," the group said in a statement.
PA lawmakers told to be prepared to vote on budget
Liquor, pension changes apparently off the table but $380M hole remains as Monday deadline looms.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:20 p.m. EDT, June 28, 2014
HARRISBURG ——
Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett gave lawmakers an ultimatum: change liquor and pension systems or he won't sign a budget that includes tax increases by the June 30 deadline.
With that deadline at 11:59 p.m. Monday, lawmakers are wrapping up a budget proposal that does not include tax increases on tobacco products and natural gas drillers in the hopes that Corbett will sign it on time or at least some time before the July 4 holiday weekend.
On Saturday, Senate Republican leaders sent the administration a budget proposal that is expected to be higher than the $29.1 billion spending plan the GOP-controlled House approved last week but lower than the $29.4 billion Corbett suggested in February.
"We are trying to put together a $29-plus billion budget that doesn't have any revenue increases," Budget Secretary Charles B. Zogby said.  Saturday was a non-voting session for the House and Senate. But lawmakers have been told by their respective caucus leaders to be prepared to vote on a budget sometime Sunday evening or Monday.
Corbett stands by his demands as end-game begins
Governor again calls for pension reform as state House passes $29.1 billion budget without reform measure and a Senate panel follows suit.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:13 p.m. EDT, June 26, 2014
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday said legislative leaders need to allow lawmakers to vote on bills that would change the state pension systems as part of next year's budget.  The public deserves to know where their local lawmakers stand on pension reform, Corbett said. Spending for education and other agencies will continue to suffer and the state's bond rating will erode if changes, even incremental ones, are not made to the pension systems for state workers and public school teachers, the governor said.
"In dealing with the pensions, I think it's very important for the people of Pennsylvania to know this is not partisan. This is not Republican, this is not Democrat, this is a taxpayer issue," Corbett said in a rare impromptu news conference in the Capitol newsroom. "It's a taxpayer issue because if the rating goes down, borrowing gets more expensive."
It's also an election-year issue in the face of a cumulative $1.4 billion deficit.
Gov. Tom Corbett issues budget ultimatum to Legislature
He wants liquor and pension reform changes — or he won't sign the budget by June 30 deadline.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:36 p.m. EDT, June 17, 2014
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett celebrated his 66th birthday Tuesday. But the Legislature did not give him what he wanted: pension reform and changes to the state liquor store system as part of the 2014-15 budget.  So Corbett advised lawmakers to cancel their summer vacations. He said he will not approve the budget — and any tax increases needed to close a big deficit — by the June 30 deadline without liquor and pension changes.  He wants pension payments lowered to give him more money to spend on public schools — a move that would increase long-term debt.  "I am willing to be here. The lieutenant governor is willing to be here," Corbett said in a rare, budget-related news conference at the Capitol. "No bluster, no threats. These are facts.
With the budget deadline looming, pension reform? What pension reform?: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com on June 29, 2014 at 8:47 PM, updated June 30, 2014 at 7:50 AM
So it's the Sunday night before the budget deadline, and it's come to this: Gov. Tom Corbetthas gone fishing for Democratic votes in Philadelphia to get a pension reform plan onto his desk before lawmakers skedaddle for the summer.
During a news conference in his Capitol office on Sunday night, Corbett offered to trade a vote on a Philly-only, $2-a-pack increase to the cigarette tax in exchange for a vote on pensions.
Why? Because the city needs state authorization to get the tax, which raises $45 million in its first year, and $85 million a year thereafter.  Corbett tried to position the vote as a matter of property tax relief -- arguing that homeowners in Philly (and elsewhere in the state) would be socked with huge real estate tax increases as districts raced to keep up with exploding pension costs.
Democrats from both sides of the Capitol were quick to stomp on the administration's proposal, accusing Corbett of playing politics with schoolkids to score a win on one of his signal budget priorities.  "The governor is trying to regurgitate a program that he couldn't get passed with Republican majorities in the House and Senate," said Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. "It's over."

Sunday morning budget negotiations produces near-agreement on a $29.1 billion spending plan, leaders say
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on June 29, 2014 at 2:50 PM, updated June 29, 2014 at 8:34 PM
House and Senate leaders emerged from a two-hour negotiating session with a near agreement on a $29.1 billion general fund budget and revenue plan for 2014-15.  While some details still remained to be nailed down, leaders from both chambers sounded encouraged that they will be able to get a no-tax increase budget done before the new fiscal year starts on Tuesday.
"We're moving toward a final chapter," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County. "We still have things that need to be worked out [but] we're narrowing the issues."
"We're moving forward on a budget and we feel very positive about it," said
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County. "We should have an on-time budget and it's responsible."

No-tax budget teed up for final votes Monday
WITf State House Sound Bites by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 29, 2014 11:27 PM
A roughly $29.1 billion state budget is poised for final votes in the House and Senate Monday.
The plan includes no new taxes, and appears likely to go to the governor before the midnight deadline.  Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans are noting the number of one-time funding sources and optimistic tax revenue forecasts baked into the plan.

"It is a sad day in public service that we find children being held on the railroad tracks awaiting some rescue to come from somewhere that has nothing to do with them." - Mayor Nutter 
Philadelphia school funding tangled up in Pa. budget battle
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Monday, June 30, 2014, 1:07 AM POSTED: Sunday, June 29, 2014, 10:50 PM
HARRISBURG - The down-to-the-wire battle over the 2014-15 state budget was overshadowed Sunday by a firefight that erupted over funding for the Philadelphia school district.
Without enough GOP votes for a pension-overhaul plan, Gov. Corbett and House Republican leaders gave Philadelphia Democrats a Hobson's choice: Vote for the GOP pension plan in return for Republican support for an increase to the cigarette tax in the city.
Philadelphia wants legislative approval of the tax to help plug a hole in the school budget.
Vote against pensions, Corbett said, and city schools will end up at least $96 million short of the $135 million in additional funding Mayor Nutter said is needed to open the doors in September.
"The Philadelphia delegation has the ability to help far more than they have," Corbett said in an impromptu news conference with reporters in his Capitol office. "If there is a positive pension reform vote there will be a cigarette tax for Philadelphia."
Corbett added, "It's in their hands."

Pension bill tied to aid for Philadelphia schools
MARC LEVY, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS LAST UPDATED: Sunday, June 29, 2014, 8:56 PM
POSTED: Sunday, June 29, 2014, 6:13 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Approval for a cigarette tax increase in Philadelphia was being held up in the Pennsylvania Legislature on Sunday by Republicans who were trying to scrape up enough support to pass legislation backed by Gov. Tom Corbett to reduce future public employee pension benefits.  House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, said Republicans were trying to persuade Philadelphia Democrats to support the pension bill in exchange for giving the city the authority to raise sales taxes on cigarettes by $2 per-pack to benefit the city's schools.
"We need a little help, and we'll help you," Smith told reporters during an unusual weekend session as Republicans tried to advance an approximately $29 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts Tuesday.


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We need your help -- join an upcoming phone bank. Join a fun gathering of like minds in Philadelphia and Conshohocken on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. We are calling fellow Pre-K for PA supporters to build local volunteer teams.
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EPLC Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters - Harrisburg July 31
Register Now!  EPLC will again be hosting an Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters. This nonpartisan, one-day program will take place on Thursday, July 31 in Harrisburg. Space is limited. Click here to learn more about workshop and to register. 

PSBA opens nominations for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award
The nomination process is now open for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award. This award may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  Applications will be accepted until July 16, 2014. The July 16 date was picked in honor of  Timothy M. Allwein's birthday. The award will be presented during the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October. More details and application are available on PSBA's website. 

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Click here to read more about EPLC’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, including: 2014-15 Schedule 2014-15 Application Past Speakers Program Alumni And More Information

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

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