Saturday, November 28, 2015

Corbett's budget funds voter ID, anti-abortion program

Corbett's budget proposal provides $1 million in anticipation of a voter ID bill passingand increases funding to the state's Alternatives to Abortion Services Program.

Corbett's budget funds voter ID, anti-abortion program

Corbett´s budget proposal sets aside $1 million in anticipation of a voter ID bill passing.
Corbett's budget proposal sets aside $1 million in anticipation of a voter ID bill passing. Ron Tarver/Staff Photographer

All of the headlines about Gov. Corbett’s budget have been about cuts, cuts, cuts — to higher education, cash assistance, even zoos. But believe it or not, Corbett’s proposal actually increases funding in a few areas.

Some of these boosts seem to fit with state Republicans’ agendas.

For instance, Corbett’s budget proposal provides $1 million in anticipation of a voter ID bill passing. This bill was introduced by state Republicans last year, but did not pass. It would have required that voters show a government-issued photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot. Critics argued that the bill would disenfranchise senior and minority voters.

The governor’s budget office said that the $1 million would go to pay for the fact that, if such legislation passes this year, the state must provide free IDs to people who don’t have them but want to vote. The Corbett administration did not allocate any money for this last year, according to budget documents.

It’s worth pointing out that the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center estimates that such a bill would cost $11 million to implement.

Another area that gets more funding this year under Corbett's proposal is the state’s Alternatives to Abortion Services Program. The budget allocates more than $6 million to it, which is a slight boost from last year.

The relatively-unknown program, which is run by a contractor, funds counselors throughout the state who work to convince pregnant women not to have abortions. It is paid out of the Department of Public Welfare’s budget — which has otherwise seen massive cuts under the Corbett administration.

According to the 2010-12 agreement between the state and the contractor, the program's funding is also not “for the provision, referral or advocacy of contraceptive services, drugs or devices.”

There are other areas that got additional funds this year under Corbett’s proposal, though some of the increases seem to be out of the administration’s control. For instance, school employee retirement funding will go up from $600 million last year to more than $916 million. There is little the Corbett administration can do about rising pension costs because the state constitution prohibits cutting pension benefits for existing or retired teachers and state employees.

Corbett’s budget proposal also increases funding this year to pay off the state’s debt. And it gives more to block grants, which are aimed at providing more flexibility to local governments (though they also lead to reduced funding in some areas, like human services), among other things.

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