Senator Dan Laughlin issued the following statement following today’s joint session of the General Assembly to receive the Governor’s 2020-21 budget proposal.
The Governor’s budget proposal includes a $1.5 billion (4.2 percent) increase in state spending from the current fiscal year. The Governor is not requesting a broad-based tax increase this year, but is continuing to push for a Marcellus Shale extraction tax, a $1 per-ton increase in the tipping fee charged to trash companies, and a fee for all municipalities for State Police services. He also continued his push for a minimum wage increase to $15 per-hour.
“We have to go through this budget with a fine-toothed comb. One of the things I want to touch on is the push for the minimum wage increase to $15 per-hour. We all want people to make more money. I have never met anybody that thought they shouldn’t make more and we know it is good for the economy, but when you artificially increase it from where it is now to $15, that’s a detriment to our senior citizens who are already on a fixed income. That never gets talked about. That’s a point that needs to be cleared up. Our senior citizens can’t just go out and say I need an increase in social security, and get it. I am not opposed to raising the minimum wage. I think $9 or $9.50, where it is tied to inflation, is a reasonable number. But, going straight to $15 hurts our older population.”
The Governor is requesting a $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding to $6.4 billion, a $30 million increase for early childhood education (Pre-K Counts to $242.3 million and Head Start to $69.2 million), and a $25 million increase in special education funding to $1.2 billion.
The State System of Higher Education would see a $13 million increase to $490 million, while state funding for community colleges and state-related universities is flat-funded in the Governor’s request.
The Governor is proposing to take $204 million out of the Horse Racing Development Fund to fund tuition assistance and $19.7 million from the fund to support other line items in the Department of Agriculture budget. In addition, he proposes to eliminate the transfer of $32.5 million from the fund to support Restricted Racing Programs (the Sire Stakes Fund, the Breeders’ Fund and the Pennsylvania Standardbred Breeders Fund). Under that plan, those programs would be eliminated as the balance of restricted revenue in the Racing Fund is drawn down.
“It surprised me that he took $200 million from the Horse Racing Fund. That would directly affect the racing we have out at Presque Isle Downs and those guys are struggling as it is,” said Senator Laughlin. “That was a promise that we as a state made to the horsemen years ago and we keep taking the money out of it. I am opposed to that. We, as a state, should keep our word to those folks.” Audio Video
In addition, the Governor is proposing a substantial funding cut for School Safety grants.
“One of the things that surprised me in the Governor’s budget address today was the $50 million that he cut out of the School Safety Program and then, when we got back to our offices, there was a yearbook that he gave out that had a cover letter discussing school safety,” Senator Laughlin said. “The two don’t add up. I was really stunned by that. We need to get to the bottom of that.” Audio Video
Senator Laughlin is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will hold a three-week series of departmental budget hearings beginning on February 18. The hearings provide an opportunity for the Appropriations Committee to hear cabinet secretaries and other Administration officials detail their plans for the upcoming fiscal year. The state’s current fiscal year ends on June 30.
Contact: Matt Azeles firstname.lastname@example.org (717) 787-8927