Local Pa. reps on board with budget's focus

March 08, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Calling it a budget without "gimmicks," Franklin County, Pa., legislators praised Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed spending plan unveiled Tuesday for its fiscal restraint, while saying some of the cuts, notably those in education, will be painful across the state.

"It's going to be tough back home, particularly because of the cuts in education," said state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin.

Rock, a former Waynesboro Area School Board member, said he would imagine school boards will struggle with the $550 million in reduced basic education spending if passed.

"When you are already out of money, and you hear you're getting 9.5 percent (cut), that's scary," he said.

State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, said Corbett's proposal would revert school districts to their 2008-09 basic education funding levels, before federal stimulus dollars infused their coffers.

"Really the state effort is not decreasing. ... We are just unable to replace the federal dollars being siphoned through," Kauffman said in a phone interview.

Chambersburg Area School District Superintendent Joseph Padasak said he expects the reduced allocations will mean a $2.7 million net loss for his district. School officials are seeking $1 million worth of other exemptions from the state to allow for a property tax increase beyond an inflationary index.

Programs will be cut, Padasak said.

In a news release, state Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, said Corbett is proposing significant changes in the way state government operates.

"There's no arguing that times are tough — for Pennsylvania workers, for local governments and for those who rely on state programs and services. We need to make tough choices now," Alloway said in the news release.

Alloway and Kauffman said the proposal from Corbett, who was elected last year, does not include gimmicks.

"The unrealistic expectations were set up by (Democratic) Gov. Ed Rendell and how he set up federal stimulus dollars," Kauffman said.

Kauffman said he was disappointed Corbett didn't do more to address public welfare, in which a recent audit found millions of dollars in fraud, waste and abuse, he said.

"We have been working on this issue of getting the Department of Public Welfare under control for four years," Kauffman said.

Rock expressed surprise that Corbett didn't do more to address public welfare and said he's heard discussions the issue was too big for the new administration to tackle before Tuesday's speech.

The Franklin County lawmakers noted the proposed elimination of so-called "walking around money" grants.

"In this environment, running around and handing out discretionary dollars for votes is not what we should we be doing," Kauffman said.

The Republican governor's ideas will be the subject of appropriations hearings for several weeks. The GOP controls both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

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