Monday, August 24, 2015


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Capitolwire: Administration still sticking to funding formula delay ahead of decision on GOP budget offer.

By Christen Smith
Staff Reporter

HARRISBURG (Aug.24) — Republican leaders may have to give up a lot more than $400 million to appease Gov. Tom Wolf's education spending demands and broker a deal on pension reform.

Exactly how much remains shrouded in mystery as the administration combs through the GOP proposal offered last week, but with less than 24 hours before an anticipated decision on the “take-it-or-leave-it” offer, one cabinet official says Wolf hasn't moved off his March budget proposals — including the decision to delay the new basic education funding formula another year.

“As of our last conversation with the governor, he really wants to push the new funding based on his proposal,” Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera told reporters after the Pennsylvania Press Club Luncheon Monday. “So ... we are really trying to build a strong foundation first, then support the work, which is amazing work, of the Basic Education Funding Commission.”

The 15-member legislative panel released its recommendations for a new formula in June — after a year of hearings and decades of pressure over the state's existing funding system, which uses a patchwork of subsidies to level-fund some districts while upping support in others.

Typically, districts unable to generate enough local tax revenue rely on state support to balance their budgets. So when the state reduces education spending, districts with larger subsidies face steeper cuts.

It's exactly what happened in 2011 when the $862 million wellspring of federal stimulus money dried up and the Legislature at that time — following the lead of the fiscally conservative Gov. Tom Corbett — wouldn't raise taxes to replenish it.

“When you reduce 10 percent of 40 percent, which many of our neediest school districts are still 40-percent state funded, it's much, much more than 10 percent of 8 percent,” Rivera said. “So if we don't build a strong foundation … it's not going to make a difference in our neediest communities.”

In the four years since, the state's basic education subsidy remains higher now than it was in the stimulus-augmented years of 2009-10 and 2010-11 — though it's those “foundation” years, which diverted the extra federal dollars to districts in need and ultimately resulted in higher funding, to which the governor wants to return before implementing the new formula.

Republicans, on the other hand, say the formula will ensure fairer distribution of state funds to the districts that need it the most — those struggling with the lingering effects of the lost stimulus.

It's why, despite the governor's opposition, the formula was written into the now-vetoed Education Code, say Republicans. 

Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said Monday that while the GOP proposal didn't come with a formula requirement, it doesn't mean the caucus is willing to forgo implementing the new formula another year.

“It was mentioned then quickly dismissed as something we'll talk about later,” he said about the issue when it came up during meetings last week between legislative leaders and Wolf. “But there will have to be a discussion on it.”


Wednesday, August 19, 2015


House and Senate Republicans put an offer on the table at Wednesday's state budget negotiating session to increase funding for schools in exchange for pension reform proposal that looks something like the one the Legislature passed and Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed.

Now they are awaiting a response from Gov. Tom Wolf and Democratic legislative leaders.

The offer included increasing spending on basic education, which is the bread and butter of state funding for school districts, by $400 million, which is what Wolf requested in his budget proposal. In exchange, they are asking the governor to go along with a modified pension reform plan that includes a defined contribution plan for future employees.

"We're not looking for a counter" offer," Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County said following the brief session. "He can accept it and we can move forward with the rest of the budget. If he doesn't accept it, ... then we're back to Square One."

House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, indicated that if the governor rejects this offer, the Legislature's focus will move toward a budget veto override or stopgap budget.

GOP offer


Five hours ago the Republicans made a proposal to the governor. The proposal was for full funding provided there would be a change in the pension program for new employees.see below

Friday, August 7, 2015

Support for Wolf's budget

Friday, August 7, 2015
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Rep. Michael K. Hanna: Budget survey results show clear support for Wolf budget plan.

Text of Aug. 7 press release.

HARRISBURG, Aug. 7 – State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, today said his 2015 budget survey showed that residents of his district overwhelmingly support an agenda that reinvests in education through a shale tax, invests in the state's workforce and provides significant property tax relief.

"Nearly one month ago, I mailed a budget survey to every household in the 76th Legislative District and also made the survey available to residents online," Hanna said. "I am extremely grateful for those who shared their opinions. The results further solidified the very ideas that I have been fighting for in Harrisburg."

Hanna said more than 1,000 constituents have so far responded to his survey, which asked various state budget-related questions. 

"My goal was to gain a better understanding of where Pennsylvanians fall on the top issues being discussed in Harrisburg and what the legislature needs to focus on in this budget debate," Hanna said.

Of those who responded, 78 percent support a Marcellus Shale tax. In addition, 69 percent support restoring basic education cuts, 57 percent support restoring previous cuts made to state-system and state-related universities, 78 percent support Governor Wolf's property tax shift-relief proposal, 74 percent believe employers should offer workers a defined pension benefit, 68 percent support increasing Pennsylvania's minimum wage to $10.10 and 82 percent believe Pennsylvania should maintain the its liquor stores, but modernize them.

Hanna said, "I believe these results validate everything I have fought for and will continue to fight for in Harrisburg. The GOP budget proposal did not address any of the issues that are important to Pennsylvanians, but I have faith that Governor Wolf will deliver on these top issues."


Strategy meeting

I participated in a meeting today to develop a strategy/ strategies with other groups to get the word out as it relates to the budget proposed by the Governor. Big question for districts... What will you be without as we start the school year as a result of no budget?

Conference call continued

Four prong approach from Govenor 
Invest in Education 
Severance tax
Less property tax
Make sure all numbers add up correctly 

Conference call with Govenor

Govenor wants 100 million in Pre K
Additionally 25 million for Head Start
Our state ranks 46-48 in state funding for schools 
1 out of 6 kids we serve for early childhood. This is worse than WV, Ohio and NY