HARRISBURG - Public schools and public welfare will top the list of losers in the budget deal negotiated between the Corbett administration and the Republican-controlled legislature.

And the city of Philadelphia, more so than its suburban neighbors, will feel the pain of the financial whack.

Detailed spreadsheets released by the legislature late Monday reveal steep cuts to state aid for public education and programs for the poor, including food pantries, job training, and drug and alcohol programs.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) called it "the best budget that we can come up with, given the constraints we are working with. . . . It's certainly an improvement over the governor's original proposal, which had even more dramatic negative impacts."

Critics begged to differ. "It's stunningly terrible," said Carey Morgan, who heads the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger. "I don't think our legislators have their priorities in order. . . . This budget ignores real people."

Overall, the $27.15 billion budget deal is about 3 percent less than the current year's budget. It lets Gov. Corbett stick to his campaign pledge not to raise taxes - including no new levy on extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale - and sharply rein in spending.

But it comes at a cost.

Although the negotiated budget deal restores some money to public schools and state-supported universities, they are still taking hefty financial hits.

The four state-related universities - Temple, Lincoln, Pennsylvania State, and Pittsburgh - faced more than a 50 percent cut in aid under Corbett's original proposal. GOP negotiators put back millions of dollars, and those schools are now looking at a 19 percent cut - although that, too, was in jeopardy Monday night after some of the relevant bills failed to muster enough votes in either the House or Senate.

Those bills, which would allow state money to flow to the universities, needed to be approved by a two-thirds vote. But many Democrats, who are in the minority in both chambers, said they could not vote for such steep cuts.

Rep. Bill Adolph Jr. (R., Delaware) said Monday night that the funding bills for the universities would likely get pushed to the fall.

Public schools

In K-to-12 public education, the negotiated budget would restore about $269 million, or almost a quarter, of the $1.1 billion in cuts that Corbett had proposed.

The deal puts $100 million back into the popular Accountability Block Grant program, widely used to expand or maintain all-day kindergarten and to fund other early education programs; and $130 million back for basic education aid, the state's main subsidy to school districts.

There is also $39 million more for the little-known practice in which the state helps school districts pay their share of Social Security taxes for their employees.

But there were few cheers from school officials as they pored over the numbers and saw that the lion's share of funds legislators had restored went to wealthier districts.

Philadelphia got back only $22 million of $292 million in cuts Corbett had proposed.

"The governor and the Republican majority dropped the ball on Philadelphia schools," said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.), the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

Philadelphia schools spokeswoman Shana Kemp said it was not yet clear how the added money would be spent in a district facing gargantuan budget troubles of its own. With a gap that once loomed as large as $629 million, the district has laid off more than 3,400 employees. It plans cuts in programs and classroom services this fall.

By contrast, Chester County's well-off Tredyffrin/Easttown School District got more than 83 percent of the funding that Corbett had proposed to cut handed back by the budget deal.

"This is not a good day for the poorer school districts in public education," said Joe Otto, business manager of Delaware County's William Penn School District, which had about 17 percent of the Corbett cuts restored.

Otto said his district would likely have to lay off 45 staff, including 29 teachers, as a result. "I'm almost speechless as to the impact, especially about the richest districts getting more," he said. "It borders on immoral."

The cuts affect districts in different ways, in part because of funding formulas. Poorer districts, for instance, have more students going to charter schools. So they would be hard-hit by the budget writers' decision to stick with Corbett's plan to stop reimbursing districts for charter-school payments. Districts must pay for the education of their students in charters.

Some districts - notably Chester Upland - did get some basic aid restored in the budget deal.

But even the wealthiest districts were not celebrating.

"Are we happy to get the money? Of course we are," said Tredyffrin/Easttown board president Karen Cruickshank. But "every bit of state funding that they cut hurts."

Welfare programs

Advocates for the poor said the budget delivers multiple blows to the most vulnerable.

They point to a nearly 50 percent cut to job training and to programs that help families pay for day care so they can work. "These cuts will make it even more difficult for Pennsylvania families to move from welfare to work just as the economic recovery appears to be stalling," said Michael Froehlich, a Community Legal Services lawyer.

The deal appears to restore some funding for burn, trauma, and academic medical centers that Corbett had proposed to eliminate.

For his part, Corbett has been tight-lipped about the deal. He has said he wants an on-time budget, but made it clear he would readily go past Thursday's deadline if the legislature sent him a document containing provisions he could not support.

One such provision would impose a local impact fee on natural gas drillers. The governor says he wants to see his Marcellus Shale task force's study, due in July, before any decisions on the matter.

Still, there are rumblings in the House that there could be an effort to tack a drilling fee - popular with a majority of Pennsylvanians in every recent poll - onto the budget.

The Senate is to start voting on the budget bill Tuesday. Then it goes to the House.

Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com.
Inquirer staff writers Don Sapatkin, Kristen A. Graham, and John Manganaro contributed to this article.