Rapp: Lots of work lies ahead

Members of the Pennsylvania legislature have their work cut out for them in Gov. Tom Corbett’s $29.4 billion 2014/2015 budget proposal.

Now the governor’s proposal will head back to the House and Senate where representatives work to piece together an appropriations bill by June 30.

“It’s going to take a lot of work,” State Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, said, adding she is cautious of the proposed 3.3 percent increase in spending.

“I”m not sure where the 3.3 percent increase is going to come from.”

Rapp said she is looking forward to hearing from her Warren County constituents about the budget proposal and said, “I do believe it’s time to increase spending for special education.”

That includes increased spending for community-based services for students with autism and intellectual disabilities.

“It’s time we look at special education and give them an increase,” she said.

Rapp said the governor’s comments on job creation stood out and she supports making Pennsylvania more “business friendly.”

“Our philosphy is creating a job market for private industry to create those jobs, not necessarily government,” she said.

A major concern among legislators is “getting deeper into debt” and how to address the costs of pensions.

“It will be a lot of hard work in the House and Senate, but it is something that we feel is something we must absolutely address,” she said adding the current discussion on pension reform is to not touch retirees and current employees.

State Sen. Scott Hutchinson, R-Venango, said “once again we have a tight fiscal situation in Pennsylvania,” and the governor’s proposal “lives within its means.”

The budget proposal is taking a targeted approach to addressing increases in education block grants in science, technology and math, the first increase in years for such programs, Hutchinson said.

“That would certianly be welcome in the 21st district,” he said.

Both Rapp and Hutchinson escorted the governor to the House floor to deliver his budget address.

“The governor’s budget address serves as the annual blueprint for the ongoing budget negotiations that will take place over the next several months as we work together to develop a plan that best serves the people of Pennsylvania,” said Rapp. “However, I must emphasize that today only marks the beginning of the budget process. There is much hard work that needs to be done between now and June 30, when a final version of the 2014-15 spending plan must be in place.”

“It was truly an honor to be selected to serve on the committee to escort and introduce the governor to the joint legislative session for his annual budget address,” Hutchinson said. “While largely a ceremonial role, today’s budget address begins in earnest the very important business of enacting a sensible and fiscally responsible state budget.”