On February 5, Governor Tom Wolf delivered his annual budget address before a joint session of the General Assembly. For the most part, the Governor talked about his policy proposals in idealistic terms, rather than focusing on the dollars-and-cents line items in his proposed $34.1 billion state General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2019-20.
Granted, the joint session is not traditionally a forum that lends itself as a stage for the Governor to deliver a monologue on his specific state spending proposals. Rather, it is usually a ceremonial event that gives the Governor an opportunity to generally discuss his initiatives.
Essentially, the in-depth discussions about the Governor’s spending plan kicked off on February 19 when the Senate Appropriations Committee opened a three-week series of budget hearings. These hearings gave the Appropriations Committee an opportunity to hear from – and question — cabinet secretaries and other Administration officials about state spending and various policies.
I was appointed to the committee for this legislative session so these hearings not only gave me a chance to review the specific budget requests from various state departments and agencies, but provided an opportunity for me to bring up issues that directly impact local residents.
For example, during the hearing on the Department of Transportation I discussed the current formula for allocating road improvement funds with Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards and stressed that it needs to be changed for areas with extreme weather, such as Erie.
During our hearing with Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Secretary Cindy Dunn gave me an update on sand replenishment at Presque Isle and efforts to maintain and improve the state park.
When we met with the Commissioners from the Public Utility Commission, I discussed the high cost of renewable energy and how making energy more expensive would make Erie businesses less competitive and cost local jobs. While I fully support renewable energy, we need to make the transition as renewables become more economically viable.
The hearing for the Department of Corrections gave me the opportunity to discuss my proposal to train eligible inmates to become volunteer firefighters with Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel.
During the hearing with the Department of Human Services, I asked about new approaches to help individuals break the cycle of generational poverty through education. I also discussed approaches to improve health care options for elderly Pennsylvanians.
These are just a few of the topics I raised with Administration officials during the budget hearings. Videos of these and other discussions are available on my website: www.senatorlaughlin.com. My webpage and Facebook page, www.facebook.com/senatorlaughlin, are great resources to keep up to date with government news and learn more about state services and agencies.
For more information about the budget hearings and to watch complete videos from those sessions please visit www.pasenategop.com.
Contact: Matt Azeles firstname.lastname@example.org