When Pennsylvania lawmakers return from their Easter and primary election recess, the emphasis will be on the state budget.
Governor Tom Corbett has proposed a $27.1 billion spending plan for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. It holds the line on taxes and closes a projected deficit of $700 million, in part by trimming appropriations to the 14 state-owned universities by 20%, and cutting funding to the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State and Temple by 30%.
Pennsylvania Senate Democrats have now unveiled their own budget plan, calling for more than $1 billion in new spending.
The plan would add at least $250 million to Accountability Block Grants and higher education, while another $250 million would funnel into "job creation strategies" including research and development.
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (Allegheny) said the budget priorities will pay for themselves through effective spending.
"Our approach is simple," said Costa. "It does not require more taxes from our citizens, nor does it ask for more burden-shifting."
Costa said the plan would "invest" in Pennsylvanians affected by state spending cuts. He said more investment will be possible if the economy continues to recover.
Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny County) said the Governor promised not to raise taxes.
"I don't care if you're in a poor community, an affluent community … if your school district raises taxes, they're the direct result of this administration of this governor," said Brewster. "You can't cut your way out of these problems, and that's what this governor wants to do. It's gotten to the point now where it's an embarrassment."
According to state Democrats, if the plan is approved, overall spending would rise less than 1.5 percent.