HARRISBURG, Pa. — Governor Tom Wolf laid out his plan Tuesday for how Pennsylvania should spend its money. The governor’s general fund proposal suggests spending nearly $33 billion.
It’s about $1 billion more than this year’s budget, yet it includes no broad-based tax increases.
There are a lot of expenditures listed in the governor’s proposal, but the two largest are education, along with health and human services.
Wolf proposed a new budget for Pennsylvania with a new approach that includes reduced cost, and streamlined government.
Gov. Tom Wolf said “I can come before you today with a budget that makes the investments we need to continue our progress without any tax increases on Pennsylvania's families.”
“Taking a business owner’s approach to our budget, we were able to tighten our belts, cutting $2 billion by streamlining our bureaucracy and saving Pennsylvanians another $700 million by cracking down on fraud and abuse,” Wolf said.
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana County) said “we also want to thank the governor for recognizing that working families and our individual citizens can not afford to pay any more dollars in additional taxes as he’s proposed in the past.”
There is one tax the governor has continued to pursue, a tax on natural gas drilling.
“Ask these oil and gas behemoths to pay their fair share for extracting Pennsylvania’s bountiful resources, and we can build a brighter future for Pennsylvania,” Wolf said.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre County) said “when he proposed a severance tax, he did not propose the permitting reform which was part of the agreement last year.”
It’s a future the governor believes behinds with proposing an additional $225 million towards education, dedicating more than $13 billion of the General Fund to education .
“Businesses don’t invest in states that don’t invest in education, infrastructure or job training. We’re doing all of these things, and I am hopeful Amazon will come here, build here, and expand here,” Wolf said.
With a budget focused on education and training to build a better workforce, the governor proposed next years budget to be nearly $1 billion more than this year’s, with spending set aside to improve Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges, and dedicating more than $12 billion to health and human services.
“There are other areas that we’ve got a great deal of concern with. I think anytime you’re proposing a billion dollar increase in spending, there’s a lot of questionable components to that, that we think will lead to future taxes increases in the future,” Reed said.
While democrats and republicans may disagree on some aspects of the governor’s proposal, both sides seem to agree that they’re not looking for another drawn out budget battle.
“After decades of neglect and years of crisis, we have finally begun to tame the fiscal beast that haunts Harrisburg,” Wolf said.
“I think the spirit is there, but it will be a challenge, this is not going to be an easy one, just because if the overspend that the governor proposed today but one that we will work diligently to bring in on time,” Corman said.
Whether that happens this year depends upon the details of the budget.
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center director Marc Stier said “good news is the budget is balanced on arrival, but he recognizes we have a long term fiscal problem, a long term public investment deficit, and we need some more tax revenue so he’s again calling for a shale tax.”
It took nearly four months to resolve this year’s budget. Although neither side is looking for a repeat, it seems Democrats and Republicans are still at odds over a natural gas drilling tax.