On Tuesday, February 4, Governor Corbett announced his 2014-15 budget priorities. Once again he has proposed flat funding ($412 million) for the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). He has also proposed a $25 million scholarship program for middle-income students.
APSCUF believes that this year a general appropriations increase is necessary to begin to restore the funding cuts, maintain a quality education for our 110,000 students, and ensure minimal tuition increases. In 2011, PASSHE experienced a $90 million (18 percent) reduction in state support and for the past two budget cycles, funding has remained flat. State funding for PASSHE is at the same level it was in 1997.
Facing a $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion budget gap, Corbett’s administration has advocated for pension reform as a means to help balance the budget. Several aspects of the pension reform discussion have remained consistent: transferring of risk from taxpayers to employees, addressing the unfunded liability, and limiting the growth in pension contributions.
The payments to the pension plans covering state and school employees are scheduled to increase by approximately $610 million in fiscal year 2014-15. Corbett has proposed reducing those payments to provide budgetary relief for other areas. Reducing these payments ultimately adds to the unfunded liability.
Fortunately, Governor Corbett’s budget address is only the first step.
It will take all of our members working together during the upcoming months to contact legislators about state and local budgetary concerns. State APSCUF will be coordinating legislative meetings on campus and asking members to set up district office meetings.
Appropriations hearings will begin in February. On February 20, PASSHE will testify in front of the House of Representatives at 9:30 am and the Senate at 1:30 pm. In October, PASSHE announced that it would request an appropriations increase of approximately $16.5 million for the educational and general fund and a targeted line item of $18 million for high priority programs.
APSCUF is requesting an appropriations increase of $34.5 million dollars (8 percent). APSCUF also seeks a $500,000 restoration to the Cheyney Keystone Honors Academy and a modest increase to Key ’93 funding for deferred maintenance projects.
Please note that for the first time, the public can submit questions to the House Appropriations Committee. We encourage all APSCUF members to submit questions about higher education budget priorities. Please go to www.pabudget.com/participation and use the electronic submission form.