Director highlights state budget

Back in February, Governor Tom Corbett unveiled a $27.1 billion state budget proposal that held the line on taxes while making deep cuts in higher education assistance.The spending plan is reportedly only a 1-percent decrease from last year's budget; however, Corbett's initial plan calls for cuts of over $300 million from 14 state-owned universities and a small reduction in funding for public schools.According to David Mitchell, the current director of Corbett's northwest regional office out of Erie, the proposed budget continues to be the hot topic in Harrisburg."They'll be back next week to really hit it hard but the ball is in the other court-- the governor has already given his shot, now it's up to the Legislature to take his proposal and come to [a] compromise," Mitchell said. "It is important that we reach the $27.1 billion mark and we have to balance the budget just like everyone else's department, your counties, and the local municipalities. "The governor has been steadfast on saying that we need to get back to that particular point where things are balanced. There will be a lot of hard discussions within the next month or so and I do believe that we'll probably see the budget coming in in late June."Not surprisingly, Mitchell said several state representatives that he's conferred with have voiced their displeasure."I've spoken with a lot of representatives who are not happy with everything-- of course no one is-- and there will be some tweaking and I think they're waiting for the May figures to come in on the economy," Mitchell said. "We've been growing a little bit-- modestly-- but depending on who you listen to, I think we're still about $400 million out, close to it. "The big gorilla in the room, though, is the worker's compensation problem that we have and the unemployment issues. We still have some ongoing issues with the [U.S.] Department of Health and Welfare, those are being negotiated as well."We hope to have this budget finished and keep the economy growing in Pennsylvania in the coming year. This budget is going to be hard, just like at home, but we need to be there."