HARRISBURG – In an address to the General Assembly, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion 2022-23 state budget that would increase General Fund spending by $4.5 billion, Sen. Joe Pittman, R-41, said.
The new spending includes $2 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Including the expenditure of federal dollars returned to Pennsylvania during the pandemic, the governor’s budget represents a 10.9% increase in spending.
According to Senate Appropriations Committee budget projections, the governor’s plan will produce a $1.3 billion deficit for the 2023-24 fiscal year and create an even bigger bill for Pennsylvania taxpayers to pay long after the governor leaves office: a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27.
“The priority needs to be making sure the dollars we spend are targeted and are smart – yes, we do have a surplus of revenue right now, but those are one-time dollars, they aren’t going to be here forever,” said Sen. Pittman. “These are very uncertain economic times, particularly in these inflationary times, so we need to be very careful in how we use those dollars.”
“I was encouraged by the governor’s proposal to shift State Police funding out of the Motor License Fund and putting it into the general budget, which will free up hundreds of millions of dollars for highway and bridge repairs,” Sen. Pittman added. “It’s important, very necessary and probably one of the most thoughtful uses of surplus revenue that we could have in this budget cycle.”
The senator also discussed the importance of directing more funding toward the State System of Higher Education and, specifically, to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which is a major source of economic activity within the 41st Senatorial District.
Sen. Pittman was critical of Gov. Wolf saying in one breath that a major hike of the minimum wage is needed while at the same time the Wolf administration is pushing for a $410 million tax through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an initiative that will eliminate thousands of family-sustaining jobs and pass on that tax to Pennsylvania consumers of electricity.
“I think it’s very disingenuous for him to try to increase electricity taxes by $410 million … and in the process wipe out family-sustaining jobs,” while claiming Pennsylvanians “deserve a raise” in the form of a minimum wage hike, said Sen. Pittman. “The family sustaining jobs pay the bills; it’s agreed that minimum wage, whether it’s $7.25 an hour or $12 an hour, doesn’t pay the bills.”
The Senate will hold a series of public hearings in the coming weeks to review the spending plan and produce a more responsible budget proposal that funds essential services while shielding taxpayers from the consequences of reckless overspending.
“I’m hopeful we’ll have an on-time budget that is balanced and responsible for all Pennsylvanians,” Sen. Pittman said.
Chart showing gap between Gov. Wolf’s budget projections and those of the Senate Appropriations Committee
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