Energy - May 11, 2012

Senate Approves Budget, Corbett negotiate

On Wednesday, the state Senate approved the $27.6 billion budget bill with a vote of 39-8.  The bill restored some $500 million in previous cuts to higher and basic education and county human services programs.  Public libraries and the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation fund also saw some additional funding.  The House will take the bill up next but it remains to be seen if they will approve of the Senate’s plan; which does not include any tax increases.   

Human services programs have seen a drastic cut this year and Senate ultimately rejected an amendment to the budget bill to restore full funding. reports that the Senate bill puts $84 million back into the human services programs but it does not “address Corbett’s plan to combine seven of these programs in a single block grant.” 

Meanwhile, Governor Corbett has indicated that he is willing to negotiate on the budget but will proceed cautiously.  Noting that the $500 million the Senate has put back into the proposed budget plan “is a lot;” calling it “a ceiling.” reports that House Majority Leader Mike Turzai agreed with Corbett and “that the $500 million should be the upper limit.”

The House and Senate return to session on Monday, May 21, 2012.

PA Universities promise low tuition increases

As budget negotiations continue in Harrisburg, the universities in the Commonwealth have gotten a bit of a reprieve.  With the currently proposed budget restoring some funding to higher education, reports that in exchange, several of the state’s largest universities have agreed to keep any tuition increases low next year. 

After a twenty percent reduction last year, this year’s proposed cuts seemed unfathomable.  The 14 state-owned universities will have their twenty percent funding cut restored and Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln will also receive some additional money. The Post Gazette reports that “officials at Pitt and Penn State said those agreements will be upheld as long as current funding is continued in the final budget.”