By Tony Romeo
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) -- Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett today unveiled his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, calling for an increase in school funding primarily through a new block grant program.
The block grant program is probably the biggest initiative in Gov. Corbett's proposed $29.4-billion budget, which increases spending by 3.3 percent overall.
"For K through 12, I'm excited to announce the 'Ready To Learn' block grant," the governor said, "$241 million in funding for school districts that focus on student achievement and academic success."
The program combines the $241 million the governor is proposing with an existing $100-million block grant program.
State senator Vincent Hughes (D-Phila.), the ranking Democrat on the state senate Appropriations Committee, panned Corbett's budget speech.
"Pretty weak budget presentation," Hughes said afterward. "Failed on job creation, failed on education."
And the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee called the budget address a "gimmicky" election year proposal.
Corbett, who is running for re-election, said Pennsylvania has a lot to show for three years of hard choices. He says he set out to revive the state's economy with disciplined budgeting and spending.
He says he eliminated the deficit without raising taxes, and that the five-year low in Pennsylvania's unemployment rate demonstrates progress.
Corbett's re-election year plan carries the biggest increase in tax collections and spending since he took office. It would boost spending on public schools and social services without raising taxes. But he's counting on getting approval for plans to postpone some Medicaid and pension payments until later years.
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