PA-Gov: Wolf Delivers First Budget Address
The new Gov. had two main tasks going into his first budget address, to convey to the public that he has a solid plan for the future and convince the GOP-controlled to adopt said plan.
Wolf said his budget would be focused on the middle class and would be balanced.
His first budget address touched on the three subjects he outlined in his inaugural: schools that teach, jobs that pay and government that works.
(An interesting side-note: in his inaugural address, Wolf put jobs first but switched the order to put education first for this speech).
Schools that Teach
“We are starting with education because, in many ways, education is at the core of everything else that we want to achieve,” Wolf explained.
He called for a number of ambitious goals, primary among them restoring the $1 billion in budget cuts to education.
Wolf also pledged to increase number of children in Pre-K by 75%, spend an additional $15 million for community colleges, and restore 50% of the cuts to higher education.
The Governor asserted that colleges must freeze their tuition in exchange for increased funding.
The key promise, though, was Wolf’s pledge to increase the state’s share of education funding from 35% to 50%.
The address then transitioned to taxes.
Under his plan, the Gov. said that overall taxes for middle class homeowners would be reduced by 13% and average homeowner’s property taxes will go down by 50%.
To pay for these plans, he proposed (as was expected) a severance tax, an increase in the income tax to 3.7% and an increase in the sales tax to 6.6%.
This announcement was met with silence by the State Legislature.
Jobs that Pay
In this section, the Governor unveiled ideas for the state to incentivize businesses to hire more workers and remarked upon the Keystone State’s natural resources.
He proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, the rate Democrats throughout the country have rallied behind.
Wolf also denounced the state’s corporate net income tax, which currently stands at 9.99%.
“That is appalling,” he stated. “That is driving jobs out of our state.”
The Governor revealed that his budget plan, in addition to closing the Delaware loophole, would cut the corporate tax rate by 40% next year and 50% by 2018.
Gov. Wolf got perhaps his biggest applause of the day when he asserting his administration will phase out the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax.
“See we can agree on certain things,” the Governor ad-lipped.
Although it’s that clear if everyone will agree with his decision to accept the Medicaid expansion.
Government that Works
Finally, Gov. Wolf went to great lengths to prove that his administration will be “transparent and fully accountable.”
He mentioned the gift ban he signed on his first day in office, talked about campaign finance and redistricting reform and pledged that internal improvements could save taxpayers $1.3 billion over the next five years.
“Today Pennsylvania stands at a crossroads,” Wolf said. “Our budget should be as bold and ambitious as Pennsylvania has been for over 300 years.”
Wolf also touched upon the divided nature of Pennsylvania’s government and what message the voters sent last November.
“They may have voted for divided government, but they did not vote for gridlock or dysfunction.”
He closed on a note that sought to unify that divided government for the days ahead.
“We are the state that built America,” the Governor concluded. “Let’s be the generation that rebuilds Pennsylvania.”