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November 12, 2015

State budget: Still no news

State leaders have announced they’re in agreement on a “broad framework” for a fiscal year 2015-16 state budget that’s now more than four months overdue.

Among the provisions:

• Raising the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7.25 percent to fund $2 billion in property tax relief.

• Using $600 million in casino tax revenues to shore up state pension contributions, freeing general fund revenues to increase education funding.

In a statement following a Nov. 10 briefing outside Gov. Tom Wolf’s office, Senate minority leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said: “While there is more work ahead, I am pleased that a budget framework is in place that may put us in position to consider a comprehensive budget agreement in the near future. What we announced with the governor today was an outline of a plan that leaders of both parties can take to their members once details are finalized.

“The hope is that the process can be concluded shortly and that a full general budget plus historic agreements on key issues will be before the General Assembly within the next couple weeks.”

In a tweet Wednesday morning, House majority leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) stated: “An awful lot of details still need to be worked out and it will take a couple weeks for everything to be passed, but included in the framework are pension reform, liquor privatization, an increase of $350 million for basic education, property tax reform, as well as tighter controls on future property tax increases.”

The lack of a state budget is holding up the University’s FY16 budget as well. Pitt’s budget isn’t finalized until its appropriation has been set.

About 7 percent of the University’s budget comes from its state appropriation, which legislators approve in a separate non-preferred appropriation bill following passage of the general fund budget.

—Kimberly K. Barlow        

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 6

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