During his annual budget address, Gov. Tom Wolf shared his plan to build ‘the strongest workforce in the nation’ in Pennsylvania while proposing no tax increases.

HARRISBURG, PA, February 5, 2019 – State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia) today declared her enthusiastic support for Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed Fiscal 2019-2020 budget as detailed by the governor in his annual budget address before a joint session of the Pennsylvania legislature.

Tartaglione, who is the longtime minority chair of the Senate’s Labor & Industry Committee, agreed with the governor that the path toward prosperity throughout the Commonwealth is through the education and training of Pennsylvanians to prepare them for the jobs of the present and the future.

“I applaud Governor Wolf for striving to build upon Pennsylvania’s many recent successes by continuing to grow and integrate our workforce development initiatives, while increasing our investment in education,” Tartaglione said.

In his remarks, Wolf named his package of policies and investments as the Statewide Workforce, Education, and Accountability Program. He identified the new Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center as one of the program’s key components. The center will provide a forum for members of the governor’s cabinet to collaborate with business and labor leaders on efforts to train workers and prepare them to satisfy the industry’s workforce needs. Wolf said his goal for Pennsylvania is “building the strongest workforce in the nation.”

“As a Commonwealth, we face many great challenges,” Tartaglione said. “How do we ensure that our residents can support their families with a living wage? How do we give them access to affordable healthcare? How do we help people escape the downward spiral of addiction? And how do we provide businesses – both established and emerging ones – with the human resources they need to thrive and to bolster our economy? The answer to all of these questions is by strengthening our workforce,” Tartaglione said.

Wolf proposes to increase funding for basic education by $200 million, pre-K and Head Start by $50 million, and special education by $50 million, as well as an additional $7 million for the State System of Higher Education and $8 million for one-time grants to college graduates who remain in Pennsylvania to work.

The governor proposes $10 million in funding to extend the PAsmart program that he initiated last year to support the expansion of career training, apprenticeships, and STEM education. He also proposes to invest $5 million in home-visiting programs for pregnant women and $5 million for wrap-around services so that parents can attend college or skills training that will enable them to secure family-sustaining jobs. Those state investments would be in addition to the allocation of $15 million in federal funds to reduce waiting lists for high-quality child care.

Taxes will not be raised under his plan. Rather, Wolf said his administration has already saved taxpayers billions of dollars by streamlining state government. It has reduced the number of state employees without resorting to furloughs and combined government functions where appropriate, while preserving and improving the services it provides.

Wolf’s budget proposal also includes a projected $120 million reduction in the demand for public assistance that would result from raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $12 this year. In the days leading up to his budget address, Wolf outlined the new minimum wage plan in collaboration with Senator Tartaglione and other lawmakers. Under the plan, the minimum wage would increase further in annual increments of 50 cents per year leading to a $15 level by 2025. After then, the minimum wage would be adjusted automatically each year based on the cost of living.

Senator Tartaglione plans to introduce the minimum wage plan as Senate Bill 12 in the near future.

Late last week, Wolf also announced a plan separate from his proposed budget to apply a new severance tax on natural gas extracted in Pennsylvania toward comprehensive infrastructure improvements across the Commonwealth, including hi-speed internet networks, storm preparedness and disaster recovery measures, blight and brownfields rehabilitation, and energy-efficient site development for businesses and residential projects.

“Raising the minimum wage and launching much-needed, job-generating infrastructure projects are measures we can adopt now to improve the economic condition of Pennsylvania, and the financial condition of millions of its workers,” Tartaglione said.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact William Kenny at 215-533-0440 or email at William.Kenny@pasenate.com.