AICUP Message to Friends of Independent Higher Education
November 16, 2015
Where Is the Budget?
While Pennsylvania has gone nearly five months without a state budget, a "framework" has emerged for the spending plan and negotiations appear to have improved. State legislative leaders discussed the budget plan last week. The plan reportedly contains a sales tax hike, an increase for basic education of $350 million, a 5% increase in spending for higher education and changes to the pension and liquor store activities of the state. The centerpiece of the plan is a "dollar for dollar" decrease in school property taxes from the increase in the sales tax from 6.0% to 7.25%, generating $2 billion. One major concern with this concept is how to distribute any new resources to school districts and control increases in future property taxes at the local level.
The state spending total may be more than $30 billion or a 6% increase based on a $600 million slot machine gambling revenue transfer to the General Fund. These resources are currently used for property tax decreases to homeowners.
Some students and institutions have contacted AICUP regarding the status of PHEAA grants. These grants are totally dependent upon the actions of the Governor and the legislature. While state policy leaders negotiate, we will continue to urge them to support PHEAA funding, RTSS grants and Institutional Assistance grants.
Did you know? Rep. Tarah Toohill introduced legislation that will continue to reduce the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) debt ceiling by an additional $500 million. Beginning July 1, 2018, and each year thereafter, the debt ceiling would be lowered by $50 million increments until it reaches $2.95 billion (on July 1, 2027). HB 930 passed the House with a vote of 121-75. A similar bill passed in a prior session but did not see action by the Senate. The bill is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee.