Saturday, February 07, 2009

Something About a Frying Pan and a Fire

When Governor Rendell released his budget proposal earlier this week, I wrote that the roughly $20 million cut in Penn State's appropriation was not as bad as it could have been. The reason it isn't as bad as it could have been given the state's dire financial straits is that the Governor's budget assumed that Pennsylvania would  receive its share, $2.52 billion over two years,  of the $79 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund originally included in the economic recovery plan currently being thrashed out in Congress. More than $38.8 billion of those funds were targeted to education. Pennsylvania share was to be $771 million per year over the next two years.

As of last night, things may have gotten  worse. The Senate "centrists" compromise stimulus bill has stripped $40 billion out of the stabilization fund. It's not clear from the early reporting how the cut was distributed between the portion of the fund designated for education and the remainder of the fund. This means that the situation could be anywhere between  the total elimination of the education fund and the preservation of the remainder  and  a preservation of the education funding and the elimination of the remainder. Neither would be good for the Commonwealth, but the latter would be a disaster for education in Pennsylvania, in general, and Penn State in particular. However, while the reporting isn't clear on the point, earlier reports were that the state education block grants were being stripped by these "centrists".

Keep in mind, this is an unfolding story and things can change at any moment. Even if the Senate passes a bill with the education funding stripped, it can be restored in the House-Senate Conference Committee. But if you care about these things, then it's time to get to the phones and start calling your senators and representatives. Senator Specter in particular should be a target. He was one of the "centrists who have helped to weaken the stimulus bill.

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