Governor’s budget pushes for aid for schools, college debt

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf wants to create a major new program for college scholarships, require public schools to provide full-day kindergarten and pump $1 billion into cleaning up lead and asbestos in aging school buildings, although the Democrat’s budget proposal rolled out Tuesday is likely facing a skeptical Republican-controlled Legislature.

To do it, Wolf’s administration is projecting rosy growth in tax collections, diverting casino gambling tax revenue that subsidizes the state’s horse-racing industry, raising borrowing limits and overhauling how charter schools are funded.

The budget, Wolf’s sixth, would increase spending through the state’s main bank account to $36 billion for the 2020-21 fiscal year starting July 1. Including nearly $600 million in supplemental cash for the current fiscal year, Wolf is seeking authorization for another $2.6 billion in new spending, or 7.6% more.

Most of the increase would go to rising costs for health care for the poor and long-term care for the elderly and disabled. Public schools and pre-kindergarten programs would get about another $170 million, or 2% more, plus $280 million in savings from changing how charter schools are funded. Meanwhile, the administration wants to require that public schools start providing free, full-time kindergarten.

The plan would hold the line on sales and income taxes, the state’s two biggest sources of revenue. The administration is projecting 4.5% growth in tax collections.

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