This morning, Governor Tom Wolf outlined his proposal for a 2016-17 fiscal year budget. This proposal came despite the lack of a finalized budget for the 2015-16 year, a topic he addressed at the beginning of his speech.
His remarks also focused on credit downgrades, five in the past five years, and the urgent need to rectify the $2 billion structural deficit before an economic disaster in the Commonwealth.
For this next fiscal year’s budget, Governor Wolf proposed a $42.3 million increase to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, restorations human services cuts and new programs heroin-related services. Basic education would see an increase of $200 million, early education would see an additional $60 million, and $50 million in additional funding would go to special education.
All totaled, the spending number in his proposal comes to $32.7 billion, $2.7 billion of which comes from new taxes.
To pay for these increases, he proposed an increase in the personal income tax to 3.4 percent from 3.07 percent; an expansion of the sales tax to include basic cable services, movie tickets and digital downloads, among other things; a $1 per pack tax on cigarettes, a new tax on smokeless tobacco, an 8 percent tax on casino promotions; and a 6.5 percent tax on the extraction of Marcellus Shale.
The Motor License Fund, a constitutionally-protected fund for transportation related projects, would lose $814 million to funding the state police, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.
His proposal also includes an increase of the minimum wage to $10.15 per hour.
The proposal includes merging several government departments, including:
- Merge Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole: $10 million savings.
- Move eHealth Partnership to the Department of Human Services: $1 million savings.
- Transfer CHIP to the Department of Human Services to reduce administrative costs.
He concluded his remarks with a promise to compromise, and work on Republican-favored issues like liquor modernization and pension reform.
The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh