Revenue chief Dan Meuser backs health, education spending priorities in Corbett budget

Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget isn’t coming up short when it addresses education and health care, state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser told a group of local leaders and residents Thursday.

While Meuser stressed the importance of job growth in the commonwealth, the governor’s proposed 2014-15 $71.8 billion budget introduced in February includes a $1.55 billion increase in education funding at the primary and secondary levels, he said at a Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County breakfast at the Nittany Lion Inn.

The budget includes funding for enhanced health care options through a program called Healthy PA.

The proposed education budget for 2014-15 is $10.12 billion.

Meuser said the education aspect is about creating the most support for students, educators and schools through funding resources such as a multimillion dollar Ready to Learn block grant.

The grant would include $241 million in Ready to Learn funding for public schools that focus on student achievement and academic success. Meuser said that money would help support schools where students prove to be reading and math-ready by third grade, and help allow additional training to teachers to support early literacy STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and other customized student needs.

An additional $100 million also would help fund the accountability block grant, which supports pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten and other educational programs.

The proposed budget also promotes Healthy Pennsylvania — a comprehensive plan to increase access to quality and affordable health care for residents, Meuser said.

Under the plan, Corbett would increase funding to support enrollment and outreach efforts for the Children’s Health Insurance Program with the goal of covering all children. The plan would eliminate CHIP’s six-month waiting period, allowing all children in the commonwealth to have access to coverage, Meuser said.

Additionally, Corbett is working to increase access and better meet the primary care needs of all residents, and enhancing support for local forgiveness programs to train primary health care parishioners who, in return, will provide care in underserved areas, Meuser said.

According to the proposed budget website, Healthy PA includes reforming the commonwealth’s Medicaid program to provide affordable and quality health care, while increasing access for 500,000 newly eligible individuals through a private coverage option.

Meuser said part of the proposed budget includes $125 million in savings from the implementation of reforms to the Medicaid program and the Private Coverage Option within the Healthy PA Medicaid waiver.

He also said the governor is attempting to provide affordable health care that includes a realignment of benefit plans for adults, increased access to health care coverage, cost-sharing for adults, work search activities and premium reductions for healthy behaviors.