Historic education funding prompts Harkins’ ‘yes’ vote on budget

ERIE, July 8 – Casting a ‘yes’ vote on the 2022-23 state budget, state Rep. Pat Harkins said the new state spending plan invests responsibly and provides a historic boost for the state’s public schools while holding the line on taxes.

Harkins, D-Erie, said that investment stands to be a game-changer for students and taxpayers.

“Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer, but for decades, students in Erie and other less-affluent districts have started from an uneven playing field because the state has failed to fairly fund our schools, leaving taxpayers to fill the bill,” Harkins said. “This year, for the first time, we passed a budget that makes real inroads toward leveling the playing field, increasing basic education funding by more than $500 million and special education funding by $100 million.

“In addition, the budget allocates $225 million in Level Up funding statewide, including more than $6.6 million to Erie City School District. Those dollars have the potential to change the landscape for historically underfunded districts like Erie by finally delivering the dollars our students deserve.”

Harkins said both the Erie City and Iroquois school districts will see double-digit percentage increases over last year’s funding, with Erie receiving increases of nearly $16 million for basic education and nearly $1.4 million for special education funding. Iroquois will receive increases of more than $900,000 for basic education and $120,000 for special education.

“Beyond education, the plan we passed is a practical one that will address real needs facing working families and small businesses,” Harkins said. “The new budget includes funding to shore up our critical child care industry, and it taps remaining federal rescue dollars for programs to help homeowners make needed repairs, expand affordable housing options and create a supplemental rebate under the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. Those extra dollars will help seniors on fixed incomes and residents with disabilities stay in their homes.  

“The new plan will also lower the corporate tax rate, to help the small businesses that are so vital to our local economy continuing to rebuild.

“Any budget is a compromise of interests, but I believe the plan we passed this year, with its emphasis on public education and programs to help our community thrive, has the right priorities.

The plan has passed the General Assembly and now heads for the governor’s desk.