HARRISBURG — Lancaster County Senators Ryan Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13) voiced concerns today regarding the level of spending, taxes and borrowing proposed by Governor Wolf in his annual budget address.
The $34.1 billion budget would increase state spending by $927 million over the current year’s total. The governor also proposed $4.5 billion in borrowing to fund new community projects throughout the state. The new borrowing would be funded by a severance tax on natural gas producers.
“Any potential spending increase of nearly a billion dollars is a serious cause for concern. Although I am pleased that the governor proposed a balanced budget that did not increase broad-based taxes, we need to take a closer look at ways that we can rein in state spending to avoid the need for tax increases in the future,” Senator Aument said. “This budget proposal is only the beginning of the process, and it represents a good starting point for negotiations. I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly over the next several months to find ways to further reduce spending and create a more sustainable approach than borrowing and taxes.”
“The fact that Governor Wolf is not calling for a massive income tax or sales tax hike is encouraging, but the proposal he presented today still relies too heavily on new taxes and higher spending,” Senator Martin said. “We cannot tax, spend and borrow our way to prosperity. Taxpayers expect us to make the best possible use of every dollar they send to Harrisburg, and that means exploring every way to avoid spending increases and tax hikes now and in the future. We still have work to do on that front.”
Both Senators applauded the budget’s focus on technical education and workforce development. An additional $10 million is included for career and technical training, and $4.5 million is dedicated to agricultural business and workforce development.
New funding is also included for basic education and higher education. The governor’s plan would boost the Basic Education line item by $166 million, increase early childhood education by $50 million, and add $50 million more for special education. An additional $37 million is included for PHEAA grants to students, and a new $8 million program would provide tuition assistance for community college students.
“I believe there is bipartisan interest in helping to prepare students for the careers of today and tomorrow, and I am grateful that Governor Wolf is lending his support to our efforts to expand career training opportunities for all Pennsylvanians,” said Senator Aument, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “Education is one of the keys to creating new career opportunities for people from all walks of life, and I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to create new avenues for economic growth and upward mobility.”
Senator Martin expressed disappointment that in spite of the hundreds of millions of new dollars devoted to education, the budget did not include a funding boost for the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
“Thaddeus Stevens offers exactly the kind of focused career training programs that deserve our support,” Martin said. “As we look for ways to help students transition to the workforce, I am hopeful that line item in the budget can be reevaluated.”
The new spending in the budget is funded by a new tax on municipalities that rely on the Pennsylvania State Police for local police coverage. Governor Wolf proposed a similar plan in previous years, but it was never enacted by the General Assembly.
“State Police coverage is not free for anyone in Pennsylvania, and every community benefits from their protection. It is completely inappropriate that mostly rural communities are being asked to pay more for coverage,” Senator Martin said. “Lawmakers rejected that idea when the governor first proposed it in 2017, and we should reject it again this year.”
Both Senators pledged to closely review the proposal in order to improve efficiency and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin its review of the budget proposal with a series of budget hearings scheduled to begin on February 19.
CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Terry Trego (717) 787-6535 (Senator Martin)