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2 posts from June 2012

06/19/2012

State Education Subsidy In Pennsylvania's Budget

Senator_Bob_Menschby Senator Bob Mensch, 24th Senatorial District

Within the next several days it is likely the Pennsylvania legislature will have finalized the operating budget for the fiscal year July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. This will be the second year in a row, and only the second in the last decade, where the budget is on-time and only spends existing state revenues.

But to accomplish a balanced budget there has been some rearranging of the state's spending priorities - purposeful efforts to make our state spending and delivery of funds more efficient. One of the areas of continuing discussion in the budget is education funding, and specifically the state education subsidy for K-12. It is instructive for all of us to take a look at the facts, so let's look at the last decade of the state education subsidy for K-12 (all numbers are rounded).

  • 2002 --$4 billion
  • 2003 - $4.2 billion
  • 2004 - $4.36 billion
  • 2005 - $4.49 billion
  • 2006 - $4.78 billion
  • 2007 - $4.95 billion
  • 2008 - $5.2 billion
  • 2009 - $4.8 billion
  • 2010 - $4.75 billion
  • 2011 - $5.35 billion
  • And proposed for 2012 - $5.42 billion

A review of data shows the subsidy was actually reduced in the years 2009 and 2010, but the subsidy was fully restored and increased to its highest level ever in 2011, and the 2012 amount is fully expected to become the highest level of funding ever for the K-12 subsidy! Equally important, student enrollment has been decreasing across the state during this same ten year period, which means the funding per student has been increasing.

So then, why do some complain that the subsidy is being cut? The federally provided stimulus dollars have gone away, plain and simple. Actually, the stimulus funds were added to the subsidy in 2009 and 2010 to create an illusion that the subsidy had been increased to $5.5 billion in 2009 and to $5.77 billion in 2010. But everyone in our nation realized the stimulus was a two-year cash infusion. Yet there are those who argue that we have cut funding, simply because the federal stimulus dollars have disappeared.

You take a look at the data and you decide.

Remember, last year, with no new taxes, and with an inherited deficit of $4.5 billion, we were able to balance the budget and still deliver the highest K-12 subsidy in the state's history. So next time sometime tries to tell you the legislature cut school funding; just show them the data above, and ask them "what cut?"

It's important for all of us to be involved in this debate, but it is just as important that real, factual and credible data be the basis for that debate.

06/13/2012

Funds for Industry Partnerships Would Help Sustain the Pennsylvania Dream

Michelle_griffin_youngby Michelle Griffin Young, Executive Vice President, Government & External Relations, The Chamber 

The PA Department of Labor & Industry and leading regional workforce boards have been encouraging employers in key industries to come together in each region of the state into training consortia now called Industry Partnerships. These partnerships allow engaged employers to identify skill gaps, provide them with clear information on industry skill needs, and work with educators to design training to help incumbent and new workers acquire the skills needed in each business and industry.

What began as a concept focused on critical shortages in healthcare has become a national model program in a dozen states. Pennsylvania's industry partnerships have now engaged over 6,000 businesses and trained over 100,000 workers. This is what happens when the private sector works in partnership with the Commonwealth and takes a leadership role in area workforce boards.

As well as helping workers acquire skills-in-demand, Pennsylvania's Industry Partnerships have fostered 21st century career paths with portable and stackable credentials in industries such as: logistics and transportation, healthcare, construction, manufacturing, information technology and bio-medicine.

The Chamber of Commerce works hand-in-hand with the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. (LVWIB) and we have seen firsthand how this public/private partnership increases the Lehigh Valley's competitiveness. Based on extensive knowledge of employers and job opportunities in an industry sector, Industry Partnerships identify training and other services that have major positive impacts for businesses and workers--incumbent, low-income, and long-term unemployed--while also making the overall education and training system more effective. Since 2005, LVWIB has received over $5 million in IP funds from the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry, providing resources to train over 10,000 workers and involving more than 300 employers.

Revenue reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue indicate that the Commonwealth is receiving revenue which exceeds previous projections. This additional state income will enable the Governor and the General Assembly to increase spending on some very important programs that have either been reduced or eliminated in the 2012-2013 General Fund Budget. As we discuss prioritizing programs that are deserving of additional funding, The Chamber's members strongly support restoration of Industry Partnership funding, which is currently in the proposed 2012-2013 budget at a 90% reduction to its 2008-09 level.

For fiscal year 2011-2012, the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. received two Industry Partnership grants: $95,000 for Healthcare and $95,000 for Diversified Manufacturing for incumbent worker training targeted towards high priority occupations. LVWIB had requested funding for Energy, Logistics and Transportation, and Food and Beverage, but, unfortunately, did not receive separate funding for these industries. However, since LVWIB always looks for solutions for employers, L&T and Food/Beverage employers were folded into the Diversified Manufacturing Industry Partnership. LVWIB staff also worked with neighboring Workforce Investment Boards to identify potential resources for energy-related employers.

In his Budget Overview, Governor Corbett described a comprehensive workforce strategy that includes "Employer-Driven Training Initiatives" and highlights the importance of the Industry Partnership program as key to achieving "Performance-Based Training." To accomplish the goal of a workforce strategy that integrates a comprehensive job-matching system, employer-driven training and economic development focused on Pennsylvania's greatest resource - our workers - Industry Partnerships must be a cornerstone of that process.

Our legislators have a great opportunity to help workers develop the skills that local companies need to create solid and stable employment opportunities. An injection of funds for Industry Partnerships will help Pennsylvania maintain its leadership and, more importantly, help sustain the Pennsylvania Dream for decades.