On Tuesday, PA Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his 2017-18 budget proposal. His General Fund budget of $32.3 billion represents an increase of $571.5 million, or 1.8 percent, over the current spending plan. Cuts and savings of $2 billion are included to avoid “broad-based tax increases”. Wolf continues to advocate for additional spending on education. Included in his budget is a $100 million increase for Pre-K to 12 basic education. The budget also would provide an additional $8.9 million for the 14 universities of the State System of Higher Education.
The plan seeks to support manufacturers by establishing an apprenticeship grant program and a manufacturing training-to-career grant program. A “one-stop-shop” would be created within the Department of Community and Economic Development to streamline the process for business establishment or expansion. An additional $2.5 million is proposed to assist economic development organizations in reaching out to identify employer needs. The Governor’s budget also provides $6.1 million for tourism marketing at the state level. Of immediate concern to the business community, the Governor continues his push for an increase in the minimum wage to $12 per hour.
A severance tax on the natural gas industry is again being proposed. And, the expansion of sales tax is also included in the budget, but limited to specialty software and computer services, prepared food sold to airlines, aircraft maintenance and repair, and business storage that does not contribute to a justifiable return in increased business investment. Cuts and savings amounting to a projected $2 billion include consolidating state agencies. The Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole would be merged into a new Department of Criminal Justice. A new Department of Health and Human services would merge the program functions of the departments of Human Services, Health, Aging, and Drug and Alcohol Programs.
A summary of the Governor’s proposal is available here. Additional details on the impact of the proposed budget will be provided in the coming weeks. A budget breakfast program is also being scheduled for members this spring.