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Top tags: budget  federal funding  Keystone Grant 

Library Funding Survives Line-Item Vetoes in Final State Budget

Posted By Christi Buker, Thursday, July 10, 2014

 

Governor Tom Corbett today signed the 2014-15 state budget and related bills while vetoing $72 million in spending and urging the legislature to return to Harrisburg to tackle public pension reform. For library funding, the budget as passed survived. There will be no cuts, but also no increases in this budget which relies on a number of one-time fund transfers but no new taxes.

 

The lion’s share—about $65 million—was sliced out of funds allocated for the operations of the General Assembly. The remaining reductions affected seven state agencies beyond the legislature but no cuts involved Education Department programs.

 

There is relief that this process has come to a conclusion. Fireworks over state pensions and school funding for Philadelphia are expected this summer but the larger state budget now has been finalized.

 

We all had hoped and worked for a better outcome but, given the unexpected revenue shortage and the strong undercurrent of the public pension problem, no library cuts—including the retention of last year’s $250,000 increase for POWER Library—is a reasonable if unspectacular result.

 

We will begin this fall the process of laying the groundwork to pursue improvements in the next state budget. Thanks to each and every library advocate for speaking up and working hard during this last budget journey.

 

 

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Ping-Pong & Pension Pressure Prolong Budget Finale

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Thursday, July 3, 2014

As I indicated in my July 2 post, Governor Tom Corbett has withheld his signature on the recently passed state budget to use this leverage in an effort to secure some sort of public employee pension reform legislation. You can read the Governor’s statement (attached to this message as a PDF).  By July 10, the Governor can do any of the following:

· sign the budget bill as is;

· veto certain parts of it;

· veto the entire state budget bill; or,

· do nothing and the budget becomes law without his signature.

The Governor held a July 2 press conference to keep up the pressure for a pension reform bill. When asked if he might consider vetoing the state budget if a pension bill does not pass the House and Senate, he replied, "All options are on the table.” Few expect a full veto although anything is possible.

Meanwhile, important companion legislation for the budget has devolved into a bit of ping-pong. H.B. 278 is what’s known as a "Fiscal Code” bill and it includes language authorizing dozens of state agencies—including the State Library—to spend the money appropriated in the new state budget. This bill will also give authority to the State Librarian to consider requests from local libraries to waive certain standards that were enacted when funding levels were higher.

On July 1, the State Senate passed H.B. 278 and sent it to the House. The House on July 2 passed it as well but, surprisingly, changed some parts of it which, in turn, requires the State Senate to vote again. This means that, contrary to their plans, the Senate will need to return to Harrisburg on July 8 to consider it again. If they change it back, then the House will need to return to Harrisburg as well to re-consider their position. And so it goes.

In addition, the Governor has said that he will not make a final decision on the state budget until he sees the details of a General Assembly-passed Fiscal Code bill, too. If he holds to that, the earliest all of this could be resolved finally is next Wednesday, July 9.

To recap:

· A new state budget has been approved by the legislature, and it level-funds libraries;

· Governor Corbett is holding off signing the budget in order to put pressure on the legislature to pass some form of public employee pension reform;

· Legislation (H.B. 278) required to specify how money in the state budget should be spent is delayed by a dispute between the Senate and House;

· The Governor will not decide on signing the state budget until he receives an approved version of H.B. 278; and,

· Cooler heads are expected to prevail during the week of July 7 to finalize all of the budget details, but sometimes unexpected things happen in election years.

More to come soon. PaLA will keep you posted as developments occur. Best wishes for a Happy Fourth of July and a peaceful conclusion to the state budget soon.

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Governor Withholds Budget Signature; Key Companion Legislation Expected to Pass

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Governor Tom Corbett has withheld his signature on the recently passed state budget to use this leverage in an effort to secure some sort of pension reform legislation.  You can read the Governor’s statement (attached PDF).  He has 10 days to sign the budget bill as is, veto certain parts of it, or veto all of it.  Or he can do nothing and the budget becomes law without his signature.  Few expect a full veto although anything is possible.  PaLA will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, on July 1, the State Senate passed a Fiscal Code bill—H.B. 278—that included language authorizing dozens of state agencies—including the State Library—to spend the money appropriated in the new state budget.  Once the State House of Representatives passes the bill—as they are expected to do on July 2—we will have in place the authority to spend funds approved in the new state budget.  This bill will also give authority to the State Librarian to consider requests from local libraries to waive certain standards that were enacted when funding levels were higher.  The process for waiver applications will be announced shortly by the State Librarian, Stacey Aldrich.

PaLA will keep you informed if and when anything new develops on the nearly—but not yet officially—completed state budget for Fiscal Year 2014-15.

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State Budget Likely Poised for Passage; Libraries Level-funded

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Monday, June 30, 2014

In what can only be described as the ultimate in “kicking the can down the road,” the Pennsylvania General Assembly appears on the verge today of passing an on-time, no tax-hike, austerity state budget that level funds all library programs. Click here for the particulars.

In short, this means that the Governor’s proposed cuts to Library Access and the State Library will not take place but, at the same time, his proposed $500K increase for state aid will not happen either. 

In the final analysis, it appears that the General Assembly had little appetite in an election year for tackling pension reform, liquor reform, or implementing new taxes on smokeless tobacco, cigars, and the extraction of natural gas.  This new budget is balanced without any new recurring revenue (i.e. taxes) and achieves “balance” through rosy future revenue projections and the one-time transfer from monies in dedicated funds outside of the state’s general fund.  The end result is that the budget will balance technically on June 30 but everyone recognizes that using one-time fixes simply masquerades a structural problem that could create a crisis for the 2015-16 budget, or perhaps sooner.

One caveat:  While not likely, it is still possible that Governor Corbett might veto the budget using this budget leverage to tackle the state’s pension underfunding.

Candidly, given the circumstances in Harrisburg, escaping with level-funding is not the worst outcome.  An early, quick review of the tentative budget agreement shows decreases in the following departments:

  • Department of Revenue—down $43 million
  • Department of Community and Economic Development—down $32 million
  • Department of Conservation and Natural Resources—down $15 million (a 50% cut)
  • Department of Military and Veterans Affairs —down $3 million
  • Department of Labor and Industry—down $1 million

Departments with the biggest increases were:

  • State Police—up $13 million (6.2%)
  • Department of Public Welfare—up $124 million (1.1 %)
  • Department of Education—up $316 million (2.9%)

The PDE increase requires a closer look.  The lion’s share of the $316 million increase goes two places—pensions and Social Security payments (up $164 million) and the Ready to Learn Block grant (up $100 million, but this is an increase that is $141 million less than the Governor requested.)  Many PDE programs—like libraries—were level-funded:  Basic Education, Head Start, and Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln Universities, to name a few others.   Some of the PDE programs cut include Tuition for Orphans and Children (down $10 million), Special Education for Approved Private Schools (down $3 million), and Youth Development Centers (down $2 million.)

That’s where things stand at the moment based on a quick look at the categories.  Legislative action is expected today, June 30.  PaLA will provide further information when (or if) the budget is finalized.  Thank you for all of your great advocacy that has kept libraries from falling further behind this year.  We’re in this for the long haul and we live to fight another day.

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Libraries in the Education Budget Need a Boost, Too

Posted By Glenn Miller, Friday, June 27, 2014

Libraries in the Education Budget Need a Boost, Too

 

The state budget action is now in the STATE SENATE.  Today, or as soon as possible, please reach out to your State Senator with these few talking points:

  • Libraries are a vital part of the Education budget and increasing education funding must include increasing library funding;  (examples:)
    • Library summer reading programs prevent student “summer slide”;
    • Libraries provide Internet access for all who need it;
    • Libraries aid people applying for work, earning a GED, learning English;
  • Libraries have paid their dues already through deep cuts; 
  • Library funding currently is 1/3 lower than 2008 levels;
  • Increasing education funding must include increasing library funding, too.
  • Please ask your Senator to urge his/her Caucus leaders to include increased library funding as part of an increased education budget:
    • Increase Library Access by $2.9 million;
    • Increase State Aid to Libraries by $500,000 as the Governor requested.

(more funding details:  Here.)

 

This could go OK, or even go well.  Or it can still go badly.  It may depend on how vigorous we are over the next few days.  Time is of the essence.  The more our Senators hear from the library community TODAY —and, in turn, the more Senate leaders hear from their Senate colleagues about the need to increase library funding—the better our chances.

 

Please contact your State Senator today, or as soon as possible, especially if they’re a member of the majority caucus—the Republicans—since they control the agenda.  Call the local and/or Harrisburg office with this request.  Follow it up with a short email message with a subject line such as:  “Libraries in the Education Budget Need a Boost, too.”

 

Thanks for keeping up the pressure, all the way to the finish line. 

 

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