In his first budget address since being re-elected, Gov. Tom Wolf laid out a series of initiatives that aim at pleasing progressives, while also touting bipartisanship along the way by promising not to introduce any new taxes.
“Let me cut to the chase,” Wolf said. “This proposal asks for no new taxes.”
Since officially starting his second term in office, Wolf has laid out a number of progressive initiatives. Wolf re-upped his call to raising the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by July, which will gradually increase to $15 an hour by 2025. He’s asked lawmakers to approve a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production to finance a number of projects across the state. He also gave the greenlight to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to lead a statewide listening tour on the prospects of legalizing recreational marijuana use.
Wolf channeled a lot of the rhetoric from his inaugural address last month, by touting a commonwealth on a “comeback” and painting a much different picture of Harrisburg compared to Washington D.C.
“Here in Harrisburg, we’ve proven that despite our differences, we remain capable of doing what Washington just can’t seem to be able to do,” Wolf said. “Tackle big challenges, put aside petty partisanship and serve the public interest.”
His $34.1 billion budget proposal, an increase from the previous year’s budget, calls for an increase in education funding, and boosting an evolving workforce among other proposals.
On the education front, Wolf called for an increase in public school funding, raising the starting pay for teachers to $45,000 a year, providing universal free full-day kindergarten for every 5-year-old in Pennsylvania, and increasing the minimum dropout age to 18 years old.
In regards to assisting the workforce, Wolf said he will sign an executive order creating the “Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center”.
“The time is now for this comprehensive plan for preparing Pennsylvanians to compete and win in our rapidly changing economy,” Wolf said.
Wolf even cited Amazon’s decision to not select Pennsylvania to be home for it’s second headquarters.
“When Amazon made its decision not to locate its second headquarters in Pennsylvania, it cited workforce concerns as a main reason,” he said.
In an effort to sell his address to both sides of the aisle, he stated his commitment to not raise taxes, but also “dramatically” increase investments across the state.
“This budget is the embodiment of that noble effort,” Wolf said referring to a call for a government that puts all Pennsylvanians needs in mind. “It asks for no new taxes, no new burdens on our citizens, while at the same time increasing dramatically our investments in the public goods that will make life better for all Pennsylvanians.”
“This budget recognizes that government should not try to do everything,” Wolf added. “We have a long-held faith in our tradition of limited government and individual responsibility, but it also recognizes that government should not do nothing either.”
Republican leaders in Harrisburg responded to the address generally agreeing that there are several aspects of Wolf’s proposal that they can see advancing, while distancing themselves from the more progressive promises.
CUTLER: Gov’s #PABudget recognizes the realities
1) Need to tackle workforce development
2) Need to develop additional opportunities for farmers
3) We agree biz tax rates are too high
— PA House Republicans (@PAHouseGOP) February 5, 2019
Despite losing seats in the both the state House and state Senate, the GOP still maintains a majority in both chambers and will have a voice if Wolf’s budget.
— The Press Office (@GovernorsOffice) February 5, 2019