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Lawmakers, state leaders respond to Gov. Wolf’s proposed buget

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Wolf made many points today during his 2017-18 $33.4 billion budget presentation, including not raising taxes for Pennsylvanians ne...

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Wolf made many points today during his 2017-18 $33.4 billion budget presentation, including not raising taxes for Pennsylvanians next year. His budget focuses on funding education, combating the heroin and opioid abuses crisis, and helping more seniors receive the care they need.

Lawmakers, state leaders, and other groups had mixed feeling on the Governor’s budget proposal. Wolf, a Democrat, is working with the largest Republican majority in Pennsylvania history.

Attorney General, Josh Shapiro: showed support in the fight against the heroin and opiod epidemic.

“Gov. Wolf offered an innovative, responsible and bipartisan approach to the budget. It’s clear both he and the Legislature know fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic is a top shared priority. The Attorney General’s office is ready to collaborate with them to expand our efforts to combat this crisis and I am confident law enforcement will have what we need to protect the public,” said Shapiro.

Sen. Scott Wagner, (R, York):  wants to remind citizens that the proposal is still over the current fiscal year’s budget.

“Gov. Wolf referenced a Harrisburg in which ‘special interests always found a way to avoid giving up their special privileges’. If the Governor expects to truly rein in spending, he needs to take his own statement seriously and not allow special interest groups to control the conversation. He continues to propose increased spending for education without addressing the cost drivers of our education system – pensions, salaries, and benefits. Obviously, today is only the beginning of the process for the 2017-2018 state budget. I look forward to getting the Senate Appropriations Budget Hearings underway in two weeks. I anticipate asking the heads of each department very pointed questions in order to achieve a truly fiscally responsible budget that brings efficiency to our state government and accountability to taxpayer dollars,” said Wagner.

The Governor’s proposed budget includes a $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding, a $25 million increase in Special Education Funding, a $75 million increase in high-quality early childhood education, and $8.9 million increase for the 14 universities of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Jerry Oleksiak, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association: thanked Wolf for increased education spending

“Gov. Wolf inherited a school funding crisis, and he’s made it a top priority to fix it. If this budget becomes law, he will have increased basic education funding by $500 million since he became governor. Thanks to his leadership, we’re close to reversing the massive 2011 school funding cuts that led to program cuts, increased property taxes, and 27,000 lost education jobs. I commend the governor on his leadership and his commitment to kids, and I encourage lawmakers to approve the school funding increases he’s proposed,” said Oleksiak.

State Reps. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom), Mindy Fee (R-Manheim), Keith J. Greiner (R-Upper Leacock), Dave Hickernell (R-West Donegal), Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz), Brett Miller (R-East Hempfield) and Dave Zimmerman (R-East Earl), The Lancaster County Republican Delegation: doesn’t address state pension crisis

Two state pensions weren’t addressed. “It must be noted that the biggest cost driver to state government is the state’s two public pensions systems. Whether pension reform is part of the budget, or we get an agreement during negotiations to move it separately, at more than $61 billion in unfunded liabilities, Pennsylvania’s pension crisis must be addressed. While the plan laid out today moves government spending in the right direction, we believe if pensions are not part of the discussions, we may miss a real opportunity for reform on this crucial issue.”