Rep. Otten’s budget statement
Rep. Otten’s budget statement
Last week, the General Assembly approved and Governor Wolf signed a $45.2 billion budget. This agreement comes a week after the deadline to adopt a balanced budget. While no budget is perfect, this year’s plan includes significant investments in child care, mental health (K-12 and adult), long-term care, and support for people with disabilities and the workers who care for them. For these and other reasons, I voted YES.
I wanted to provide an overview of the budget broken down by some of the key issues in our legislative constituency based on the feedback we received from constituents.
Investments in education:
This year’s budget makes historic investments in public education, with an increase of $850 million for basic and special education. This funding increase includes a $525 million increase for basic education, a $100 million increase for special education and adds $100 million to the state school safety grant program as well as a new school mental health initiative.
These historic investments will have a direct impact on our communities, with Chester County schools receiving $15.9 million in additional funding. As part of the increase, the Downingtown Area School District will receive an additional $1.8 million, an 8.4% increase over last year, and the Coatesville Area School District will receive $4.5 million. additions, an increase of 13.6% over last year.
My fellow Democrats and I have fought hard for this increase, which will help fund programs, staff, programs and supports for students and ease the future burden on property taxpayers. I am thrilled to bring these funds back to our community!
We still have work to do on reforming Common Sense Charter funding – particularly around special education tuition and CyberCharter tuition rates – to ensure fair, transparent and fiscally responsible for taxpayers’ money. This work continues even as we celebrate these victories in the budget.
I will continue to fight to ease the property tax burden on seniors and working families and ensure that every child, regardless of zip code, has access to quality public schools.
Investments in personal services/care workers
The past two years have been challenging for all of us, especially those working in healthcare and the people they care for. With growing demand for home care and high turnover in our care workforce, this year’s budget gave us the opportunity to rectify missed investment opportunities in the past.
This year’s budget includes increases of about $150 million for nursing homes and provides semi-annual funding for costs related to staffing increases, which will help provide much-needed increases to those who have helped us. through the COVID-19 pandemic. This budget will also include an estimated $294 million in Medicaid nursing facility rates, with the assurance that the money will go directly to staffing for bedside care. Additionally, $250 million will be provided for long-term living programs through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
This budget also addresses our Home and Community Services Delivery System (HCBS), which enables people with physical or developmental disabilities to live more independently. For years, this program has urgently needed additional funding to meet the growing waiting list for services. This year’s budget includes an increase of $18.8 million to serve 832 additional people with physical or developmental disabilities.
This year’s budget allocates $3.9 billion for state infrastructure projects, including bridge/highway/road repairs. In addition, Pennsylvania will reinstate the purpose of the Motor License Fund as the primary account responsible for state roads and bridges. This action will free up $175 million annually for infrastructure projects.
In the past, funds earmarked for infrastructure projects were used to pay the state police. This budget transfers the bulk of state police funding to the General Fund so that the Automobile Licensing Fund is used to improve our state’s roads and bridges as intended.
Property tax relief:
Rising property taxes have been an issue that has plagued homeowners, especially seniors, for some time. Currently, there is only one program available that can help ease the burden of increasing property taxes – the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. With this year’s historic investments in K-12 education, school districts will be less reliant on property taxes to fund our public schools.
However, these increases alone will not be enough to ease the financial burden many people face. To address this issue, this year’s budget provides a one-time 70% increase to the property tax rebate program. This will allow rebates of up to $1,105 for eligible beneficiaries. While this one-time increase will bring temporary relief to many people, I know we can do more to help the many people struggling with rising property taxes.
Environment and energy:
We heard from many constituents in favor of increased funding for Commonwealth environmental programs.
Budget allocates historic $640 million for conservation programs, including $240 million for water and sewer projects, $100 million for local conservation districts to use for flood control , nutrient management and other projects. The budget also allocates funds for Growing Greener III and the Clean Streams Fund, which will help reduce state park maintenance backlogs, preserve farmland, improve river water quality and clean up abandoned mines.
Another big part of the budget is the new Whole House Repairs program, a portion of which will fund energy efficiency upgrades for working families and seniors.
As this year’s budget vote is behind us, I will continue to work hard at home and in Harrisburg to ensure we meet the needs and priorities of our district. If you have any questions or would like to provide input on a legislative matter, please contact our district office at [email protected] or 484-200-8259.