PA Gov: Wolf Budget Calls for Increase in Education Spending
Gov. Tom Wolf’s sixth budget proposal continued his emphasis on education, reupping his calls for universal kindergarten, while also introducing a new program for college scholarships, plus a few other initiatives he’s championed in the past.
His half hour plus address on Tuesday somewhat echoed his speech at his second inaugural address after winning a second term by saying that the state has made progress during his time in office, although he believes there is room for growth in the state.
“After five years of tough decisions and necessary investments, we all have guided our commonwealth out of crisis and put Pennsylvania back on a path toward prosperity,” Wolf said. “But we have a long way to travel.”
Wolf said that his $36 billion budget proposal, an increase from the previous year’s budget, will provide a “new wave of prosperity” throughout the state, while telling lawmakers that he’s not asking them to join him on a “wild-eyed ideological crusade.”
“Today, I present to you a budget that reflects a renewed sense of confidence in Pennsylvania’s future,” Wolf said. “This budget is a blueprint for unleashing a new wave of prosperity through our commonwealth.”
In an effort to sway Republican lawmakers, Wolf said, like last year’s budget, that the proposal didn’t include any new taxes.
“It will make a tangible difference in the lives of millions of people and folks we can actually do this together because this budget does not ask any of you to vote for any new taxes,” Wolf said.
On the education front, which has been a particular point of emphasis during Wolf’s time in office, a release from his office stated that his plans intend to boost all levels of education that include seeking a statewide expansion to full-day kindergarten, making another $405 million available to K-12 schools, plus creating a new $200 million scholarship program through the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) aimed at addressing college debt.
Wolf also touted workforce development, reiterated his calls for an increase in the state’s minimum wage, and called for gun control reforms that include “universal background checks, stronger reporting requirements for lost and stolen guns, and red flag laws.”
“These are not pipedreams,” Wolf said, of his budget proposal. “This is our playbook.”
Republican leadership in Harrisburg has responded by saying that they “share many of the same goals” that Wolf mentioned today, but said that the answer to improving the lives of Pennsylvanians doesn’t include an increase in spending.
“We share many of the same goals that the Governor outlined today,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “However, the job ahead of us is difficult, because we are starting this conversation in a hole.”
Cutler said in a press conference after Wolf’s address that the current spending path cannot continue and added that new government programs and spending will add to “additional debt.”
— PA House Republicans (@PAHouseGOP) February 4, 2020
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), a more conservative member of the House Republican caucus, wrote in a Facebook post that Wolf sounds “more and more like Bernie Sanders” after the new budget proposal.
Despite losing seats in both the state House and state Senate in 2018, the GOP still maintains a majority in both chambers and will have a voice if Wolf’s budget.