Today I supported a bipartisan $31.9 billion state budget that increases spending by only 0.2% over last year’s budget. It is not a perfect budget nor was the process used how I would have come to its conclusion. Compared to how my first budget unfolded though, it is important to note the progress we have made since then.
Two years ago Governor Wolf proposed a massive $4 billion dollar tax increase, primarily through the income and sales tax, and the largest increase in state spending in a generation. My colleagues and I in the legislature stood against those tax increases and urged a restrained approach to the state budget.
A protracted battle took place and the taxpayers had to weigh in with which approach they wanted. Time and time again the citizens of Pennsylvania have sided with those who want less government.
This budget is a win for those who urge restraint in spending. It will not require the type of broad based tax increases that Governor Wolf has championed.
This budget is a win for those who care about education as it increases basic education funding by $100 Million and prioritizes special education and early education as well. It also preserves school transportation dollars from Governor Wolf’s proposed cut which would have disproportionally affected rural school districts.
We were also able to preserve the agriculture line items in the budget from the Governor’s proposed cuts another direct attack on rural PA. Agriculture Pennsylvania’s largest industry and these investments ensures that we remain a leader in that field.
These increases are counteracted by a $103 million cut to Corrections, a sign that our criminal justice reforms are beginning to work and pay dividends. We also cut $247 million from the Department of Human Services and $29 million from the Department of Health as we work to reform our entitlement programs. Finally most departments see a cut to their administrative costs across the board.
If Pennsylvania is to pull itself out of our fiscal situation we must focus on the big issues that are holding us back. We must focus not on taxing people more but rather on taxing more people. In other words, we have to create the conditions for business growth and job creation. This can only be done by tax reform, including property taxes, and regulatory reform. I have not seen a serious commitment from the Wolf administration on these issues. I think this budget reflects the best we can do with the current administration’s focus on increased spending and taxes.
Work remains to complete other budget related bills next week and I look forward to completing those items with my colleagues.
Chief of Staff
Office of Senator Pat Stefano
Pennsylvania’s 32nd Senatorial District