After a nearly nine-month-long budget impasse due to a gridlock between the Republicans and Democrats, Governor Tom Wolf announced Wednesday afternoon that he will allow the Pennsylvania budget to become law and subsequently granting Penn State the state funding for which it has been waiting.
“We can’t be any happier,” UPUA Chair of Government Affairs and College Democrats President Ryan Valencia said.
After previously threatening to veto the budget, Wolf decided that regardless of his disagreements with the bill, it was necessary to keep the commonwealth running by allowing the bill to go into effect.
According to a statement from the university, Penn State President Eric Barron said: “State funding plays a critical role in our ability to offer an accessible, world-class education to Pennsylvanians and it also allows us to keep in operation our network of county agricultural extension services and agricultural research.”
Penn State Spokesperson, L. Reidar Jensen, said via email that one of the biggest worries was with the agricultural programs. Without the passing of the budget, there would have been programs statewide that would have been eliminated and negatively impacted more than 100,000 people involved with them.
Penn State would have also lost more than 1,000 faculty members, he said.
Instead, the agricultural department is not only receiving funding, but it is getting a 9.3 percent increase.
Richard Roush, the dean of the college of Agricultural Sciences, said the college is very appreciative of receiving the funds.
“This is a life-line,” Roush said. Without the bill going into effect, the College of Agricultural Sciences would have been wiped out completely, he said.
The 4-H program, which is meant to empower young people through a variety of means, would have been lost, but it will now be fully funded. Roush said this program is the way most people have face-to-face interaction with the university.
The effect of this decision is “further amplified by Penn State’s commitment in July 2015 to hold the line on base tuition for in-state undergraduate students in the current academic year,” according to Penn State’s statement.
Pennsylvania Senate Communications Director Jennifer Kocher said there is a five percent increase in funding for Penn State in the bill, and they passed it while moving closer to Wolf’s positions in an attempt to have a compromise.
Valencia (senior-international politics) said this was the last window of opportunity to pass the budget before a lot of jobs were lost. Students can now expect the tuition freeze because of the extra five percent in funding.
“I would say this is a great budget for Penn State,” Valencia said, adding that it is a great step, but they are also looking for another five percent increase. The UPUA wants a 10 percent increase over two years, he said.
Secretary of the Penn State College Republicans Michael Straw said allowing the bill to come into law will have a positive impact because Penn State will finally get the appropriations it is promised. Any negative impacts caused by the budget delay will be dulled, he said.
Though, Roush said there are still some lingering consequences caused by the lengthy impasse.
Because the department did not know if or when it was going to receive funding, it had to pass up on filling positions, which means it “lost great candidates,” he said. The university’s agricultural program lost ground in areas of high demand because candidates for positions went on to other universities. This also affected the decisions of many current students and prospective students, because they did not know what Penn State was going to be able to offer them, he said.
Roush said he is extremely relieved, but enormous damage has already been done.
Straw (junior-political science and economics) said, “We hope the next budget does not take nine months to complete.”
Valencia said he wants to thank the entire student body for sending letters and making phone calls.
“Their effort made a difference,” he said.
“This budget contains millions of new dollars for education and keeps our schools from closing their doors,” local Pennsylvania senator Jake Corman said in a press release. “It restores the funding for our agricultural community and means Penn State won’t lay off 1,100 employees.”
He said if the governor keeps his word, “we are now able to move the conversation to the 2016-17 budget.”
According to Penn State’s statement, Barron will continue to talk to the governor and legislatures about future funding. The governor and legislature are currently discussing the 2016-2017 budget, which is due on June 30.