With hundreds of teachers expected to picket outside of the governor’s Southwestern Pennsylvania office this afternoon, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is trying to do a little educating of his own. “I wish they would look at the budget,” says Corbett. “We have not decreased state contributions, we’ve actually increased it. What has happened is the federal one-time money is no longer there.”
Corbett says his budget actually increase the amount of state tax dollars being spent on education. As the federal stimulus money was allocated by the state legislature to education in the last two years, lawmakers lowered state spending on the same programs. Corbett says his 2011-2012 budget returns the state subsidies to 2008-2009 levels.
Corbett says everybody was warned that the budget reductions were coming, “the state senate sent out a letter to every school district that that money will be gone.” He says the state cannot replace the stimulus money as it faces a $4 billion dollar deficit.
Some lawmakers and education supporters are suggesting that money allocated to welfare programs should be shifted to education. They contend there are millions of dollars in savings that can be realized in the welfare department. Corbett says he is willing to listen to their ideas but he says he will have to be the one educated this time. “Do I believe there are savings to be found? Yes. But I can’t measure what those savings are in six weeks or even in three months,” says Corbett who had about six weeks from inauguration to his budget presentation. “So if [the savings] are there, what do you measure it as? What do you predict as may be waste, may be abuse, may be even fraud?”
Corbett says the only thing not open to debate is the bottom line number on the spending plan. He says we will not go above $27.3 billion.