No increase for Penn State in Corbett’s proposed budget

mdawson@centredaily.comFebruary 4, 2014 

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The bell and Old Main on the Penn State campus on Saturday, June 23, 2012.

ABBY DREY — CDT file Buy Photo

Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget for next year calls for Penn State to receive the same amount of funding to put toward in-state tuition and a hefty increase for its College of Agricultural Sciences.

Penn State would receive $214 million for the general education subsidy under the governor’s proposed budget announced Tuesday, and the money represents the largest chunk of funding the university receives from Pennsylvania taxpayers. The proposal is just a fraction of the overall $29.4 billion spending plan Corbett released Tuesday.

The budget proposal was a mixed bag for the university, which has been dealing with the same level of funding for the past three years. On the other hand, the governor is proposing $47.7 million for research and extension programs for the College of Agricultural Sciences, an increase that would be more than $1.5 million allocated last year.

Penn State President Rodney Erickson thanked the governor for the increased funding, and he was hopeful that the economic turnaround the governor trumpeted in his budget address would “allow for a similar increase in the university’s main appropriation” for tuition.

“We understand that the governor’s announcement represents the beginning of the conversation with the General Assembly, and we look forward to working with them in the coming months to build upon the governor’s proposal,” Erickson said.

College of Agricultural Sciences officials were pleased, too, saying the proposed increase reflects the value of the work being done.

“Although this is just the starting point in the budget process, we're optimistic that the final outcome will continue to be positive, and we look forward to working with the legislature to communicate the return the state receives for its investment in the college,” said spokesman Chuck Gill.

The college is projecting a deficit in its budget for next year, and the proposed increase would go toward maintaining programs and offsetting costs such as state pension obligations and benefits.

Lawmakers whose legislative districts include Penn State’s campus were not pleased the governor wasn’t able to direct money to higher education. They were hopeful in the days leading up to the budget announcement that the governor would find a way to increase funding for Penn State.

“It’s disappointing,” said state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township. “We will do what we can through the legislative process to boost that number.”

Corman is the chairman of the state Senate Appropriations Committee.

State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, criticized the whole budget, not just the level funding for Penn State. Conklin blasted Corbett for giving $2 billion in tax breaks to big business while not adequately funding education, job creation and health care.

Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano fell in line with lawmakers.

“I’d hope that the governor’s budget would have provided for an increase in appropriations for Penn State,” he said.

The governor’s budget calls for $15.5 million for the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport.

The state House and Senate will review the budget line items in the next few months as the governor and lawmakers work to agree on a spending plan by June 30.

Corbett also announced $25 million in scholarships for middle-income students in either two- or four-year degree programs at universities and colleges across the state. Corbett encouraged universities to match the funding.

The next step in the budget process for the university will be for Erickson to testify before the House and Senate appropriation committees about the university’s need for the funding.

That is scheduled for Feb. 13 at the Capitol.

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