North Central looks at budget proposal

Reacting to Governor Tom Corbett's initial budget proposal released Feb. 7, officials at the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission [NCPRPDC] said they find the spending plan to be challenging."The state budget is definitely a tough budget with a lot of things that, if they play out the way they are in the proposal, will present challenges to a lot of people," said Eric Bridges, executive director at North Central. "It is a budget proposal and given that it is an election year, there will be a lot of legislative wrangling. "Advocacy will be the key, particularly [for] those in the budget proposal that fared well; they're going to be targeted and the heavy-hitters from higher education and basic education will be lining up and taking their shots. "All we can do and the best that we can do is wrap ourselves around what we've done and talk about the return that we've been able to give the state [government] on the investments that they've made and work our magic with the administration and legislators."According to Corbett's initial "budget in brief" release, the spending plan "closes a projected revenue shortfall of more than $700 million and controls state spending," and in doing so "puts Pennsylvania on a solid fiscal footing to manage through the next several years of modest economic growth."The budget also reportedly "prioritizes initiatives around economic development, job creation, workforce training and public safety.""For a lot of the major program areas that we're involved in, I think we've done pretty well, the economic development side of course and most certainly the workforce side," Bridges said. "All things considered, I think we did OK, and there are some things in the Department of Welfare that I think we'll need to watch. Federal and state budgets will be tight, but we've done a lot already to appropriately position ourselves."