With the new fiscal year starting July 1, budget talks are quietly continuing in Harrisburg, with state House and Senate GOP leaders saying they're still working on a joint proposal for the governor. Republicans say though Governor Corbett has been saying he'd like to spend "less" than what the legislature's proposed, he only recently identified how much less.
House Speaker Sam Smith (R-Jefferson) says now the big task is trying to figure out if they can hit that number. "You know, we're just backing up a step and reassessing what we can do, what the governor needs to do, or what he needs to complete a budget and it'll probably be a few days 'til we meet with him," Smith said.
Corbett has said he'd like to build a half-billion dollar cushion into next year's budget. The largest expenditures that could be on the chopping block to reach the full $500 million figure are also the most difficult to negotiate: funding for social services, public schools, and higher education.
At a rally of school district employees last week, there was little support in the House for charter schools. Tom Brogan, an eighth grade math teacher in Monroe County, noted his Pocono Mountain School District's empty reserve account and 90 furloughed teachers last year.
"9.2 million dollars is sent from our school district to both charter and cyber schools for next year," Brogan said.
Ira Schneider is one of 150 furloughed employees from York City School District. He says the district is cutting electives like physical education, art, and music. "For some students, art and music are the gateway to the core subjects. Cutting these programs has severely altered our ability to educate the whole child," Schneider said.
Coming out of budget talks last week, Pileggi said the House and Senate still don't have a joint proposal to offer the governor. "Made a little bit of progress but we have a lot more to do," Pileggi said.