Governor Wolf Signs 2018-2019 Budget

Governor Wolf signed the 2018-2019 state budget into law Friday, June 22, a week before the June 30 deadline with very little controversy.  This year’s budget includes no new taxes, funding transfers to pay for new school safety initiatives, and deposited money into the Rainy Day Fund for the first time since 2006.

Three of LAMPa’s priorities – hunger, health and education – received nominal increases in specified areas of funding. State funding for special education increases by $15 million (1.35).  The Governor had asked for a $20 million increase.  Pre-school early intervention increases by $21,622,000 an 8.2% increase – $10 million more than the Governor requested. Funding for chartered schools for those who are deaf and blind increases 4.3% and approved private school funding increases 2.9%.

In the area of health and human services, the budget includes an additional $61,210,000 in state funds for the Intellectual Disabilities community waivers, a 4% increase.  State funding for the Autism Intervention and Services is increased by $3,673,000 which includes the Adult Autism Waiver and ASERT centers. Intellectual Disabilities Community Base Program funding is reduced by $1,355,000 or .9%. While state funding for Mental Health of $776.853,000-$580,000 more than the Governor proposed – appears to increase, funding for community services may actually be reduced. The Birth to Three Early Intervention program received a 1% cut, while Medical Assistance Transportation funding increases by 6.6%.

Under the approved budget, the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) line item will remain at $18.188 million. SFPP remains one of the commonwealth’s most important tools in the fight against hunger and a lifeline for food banks across Pennsylvania. Many of our Lutheran food pantries rely on this program to supplement their ministries. The program provides cash grants to counties for the purchase and distribution of food to low-income individuals, including seniors. The SFPP line item is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and supports programs such as the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Program (PASS), created by Act 113 of 2010, saw an increase in funding from $1 million to $1.5 million. Tracey DePasquale, LAMPa Director expressed her thanks for the numerous letters synod assembly participants filled out encouraging lawmakers to increase funding for SFPP and PASS.

Lawmakers recessed for the summer leaving behind several bills LAMPa constituents and coalition partners have been working on raising their voices and contacting their legislators. SB 554 “Safe Harbor” protecting minor victims of sexual trafficking was held up for vote by the House. We continue to need your voice to move “Safe Harbor” forward. Take action on “Safe Harbor” here or contact your representative in their district office this summer. Referred back to committee are HB 1659, Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) work requirements and HB 2138 adding work requirements for Medicaid recipients.  Legislators are in recess until September.

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