FILE - PA Bryan Cutler, Stan Saylor

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (left) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor.

After months of debate and bipartisan cooperation, Pennsylvania has a balanced budget that doesn’t raise taxes, puts more money into education, and sets money aside in the state’s Rainy Day Fund to prevent the calls for future tax increases. This on-time budget keeps our promise to Pennsylvanians by being respectful of the tax dollars they entrust to us.

House Bill 790 is the General Appropriations bill for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The budget spends $33.997 billion and only grows by 1.8 percent as compared to the current 2018-19 fiscal year. There are no new taxes or fees in this budget.

For years the citizens of Pennsylvania have been badgered by false rhetoric that if their taxes are not raised the Commonwealth would fall into economic collapse. House Republicans stood up for taxpayers and said no to new taxes. By holding strong, we proved that the governor’s proposed taxes were unnecessary. The result of rejecting these calls for new taxes is that we have seen a surging economy while still making historic investments in PreK-12 education.

With a robust economy there have been many calls for more spending. The budget makes strategic investments in priorities such as education and public safety, but our No. 1 priority was to save today so that we can prevent future tax increases. That is why investing in Pennsylvania’s Rainy Day Fund, which is essentially the state’s savings account, was so important. While many states enjoy large balances in their Rainy Day Fund, Pennsylvania has fallen short. This budget begins to turn that around by transferring 100 percent of the 2018-19 General Fund balance to our Rainy Day Fund. We expect that will result in a transfer of close to $300 million. As we look to the future, we must continue to stand up for taxpayers by budgeting responsibly and not conceding to massive spending increases.

Making sure our children have the best possible education has been a priority for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. This budget will commit an additional $432 million to PreK-12 education. Since Republicans have been in the majority, state spending on PreK-12 education has increased by 43 percent. This budget provides $160 million more for Basic Education Funding, $50 million more for Special Education and an additional $25 million more for PreK Counts. School Safety grants are being funded at $60 million. Recognizing the essential role libraries play in the education of our children throughout Pennsylvania, we are committing an additional $5 million for our local libraries.

Building on the career and technical education (CTE) legislative package the House passed back in April, this budget includes $7 million of direct support for CTE programs and $3 million is added for equipment grants. That is also why we are adding $4 million each for Thaddeus Stevens and Penn College of Technology, both of which have demonstrated tremendous success in educating a workforce that leads to near 100% job placement.

In addition to our career and tech programs, we are also making a substantial investment in the rest of our higher education budget. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which includes schools like Millersville, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and West Chester, is getting a 2 percent increase. Penn State, Temple, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University are also getting a 2 percent increase. Community colleges offer an affordable, accessible educational option for traditional students and workers learning to grow their skills or move into higher-paying jobs. That is why community colleges are also getting a 2 percent increase.

Pennsylvania is making a big investment in agriculture, which is the No. 1 industry in our state’s economy. This is in addition to a comprehensive legislative package to support our farmers. The governor’s proposed cuts to agriculture were all restored. There are two new line items aimed at securing animal health: $1 million for Livestock and Consumer Health Protection and $2 million for the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission. In total, agriculture is seeing a $19.5 million or 12.8 percent increase.

Too many families throughout Pennsylvania are dealing with the scourge caused by opioid addiction. While this Legislature has passed many pieces of legislation to help fight this blight in our communities, we must also make a monetary investment in helping our local cities, townships and boroughs. This budget adds $1.5 million more to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to get more naloxone into the hands of first responders.

This budget will provide funds for three new classes of State Police cadets. We will continue to lower the amount of funding for State Police coming out of the Motor License Fund and increase the amount coming from the General Fund. Currently, the Motor License Fund will account for 66.7 percent of the State Police budget and the General Fund will account for 33.3 percent. Three years ago, that split was 75.5 percent Motor License Fund and 24.5% General Fund. This is a multi-year effort to free up more dollars for road and bridge repair and is the direct result of leadership from the House.

The budget restored the cuts proposed by the governor to health and disease prevention line items. This spending plan expands services to an additional 865 people with intellectual disabilities. We will serve an additional 970 children on the child care waiting list. Approximately 4,380 citizens, both young and old, with physical disabilities will receive services. We are adding $8 million for a Medicaid Day-One Initiative payment to nursing homes and adding $12 million for a 2 percent rate increase for homecare workers who work with seniors and those with physical disabilities effective January 2020.

This is a great budget for the people of Pennsylvania. It does not raise taxes, puts more money in education, and finally sets aside money in our Rainy Day Fund. Gov. Tom Wolf has been an earnest partner in this negotiation, and working together we found a compromise which is in the best interests of Pennsylvania.

State Rep. Bryan Cutler is the Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Rep. Stan Saylor is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.