HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf presented his final budget address to the General Assembly.
The new 2022-2023 budget totals $47.3 billion, $6.2 billion above the current 2021-2022 fiscal budget.
A full budget breakdown can be viewed here.
Wolf’s budget address received support from Democrats, who say the increased budget is necessary for much needed improvements towards education, wages, and public safety.
Among some of the largest proposals in the budget is a nearly $2 billion investment for education.
“Refusing to fund education equitably simply does not save us money, it just means we wind up spending more on other things: social services, remedial programs, even prisons,” said Gov. Wolf.
The total education proposal is broken down into three categories.
- $60 million increase for Pre-K Counts allowing 2,308 more young children to attend early education.
- $10 million increase for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program to assist with rising costs.
Generational Investments in K-12 Schools
- $1.25 billion in basic education funding, bringing the total going through the Fair Funding Formula to more than $2 billion, or 26.5 percent of state funding.
- $300 million for the groundbreaking Level Up initiative launched last year to support the 100 most underfunded schools.
- $200 million increase for Special Education.
- $373 million in savings through commonsense charter school accountability reform. The governor’s plan ensures taxpayers do not overpay for cyber charter schools and special education at charter schools, allowing school districts to reinvest in students, teachers, and learning.
Transforming Higher Education
- $200 million for the Nellie Bly Tuition Program for students attending a PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) university or community college so more people can earn a degree with less debt and encourage young people to remain in Pennsylvania.
- $150 million in one-time federal ARPA funds for the PASSHE to support System Redesign, enhance student success, freeze tuition, and increase student aid to make college more affordable.
- $125 million additional investment for higher education institutions including a $75 million increase in General Funds for PASSHE.
Other sizable investments aim to attract workers and businesses to the commonwealth. Wolf says a critical part of that is raising the minimum wage.
“It’s time to do the right thing. It’s time to do the smart thing. It’s time to raise our minimum wage,” said Gov. Wolf.
To attract more workers, Wolf’s budget suggests increasing the minimum wage to $12 per hour on July 1, 2022, with annual increases of $0.50 until reaching $15 in 2028, with an estimated 1.5 million people getting a boost in pay.
To attract more businesses, the budget suggests reducing the corporate net income tax rate from 9.99%, among the highest in the nation, with a desire to show a path to 4.99% as quickly as possible to make Pennsylvania more competitive and expanding the tax base to level the playing field for all businesses.
And lowering taxes is one thing that Republicans can certainly get behind.
“It was so positive to hear that from the governor. It’s something that our state needs, we lose businesses every day to Texas and Florida,” said Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland).
It’s also something that may receive bipartisan support going forward.
“Reducing the corporate net income tax, that’s a big signature part of this budget. Republicans have been in favor of that for years, so have some Democrats. Now we have the revenue to do that,” said Representative Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie).
However, the majority of the budget was not welcomed with open arms by Republican lawmakers.
“It’s a huge increase, $6.2 billion, $17 million a day,” said Representative Clint Owlett. “The governor’s proposal is nothing more than a fiscal fantasy. Rather than rely on the experts – the nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office – to crunch the numbers, he has chosen his own numbers of unknown origin to sugarcoat reality. We are facing the highest rate of inflation in decades, and that will undoubtedly be followed by a period of recession,” said Owlett.
Owlett says that a budget this large would create barriers in the future.
“Just going on a spending spree and spending all this money right now is not responsible government, it’s not responsible to the people,” said Owlett.
Senate Majority Leader Ward echoed similar remarks on the potential impact shortly after the conclusion of the budget address.
“It will only intensify the personal financial pressures on all Pennsylvanians in the form of higher taxes, energy prices and the overall economic conditions confronting our nation,” said Ward.