From PA Chamber of Business & Industry
Last week Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law a nearly $34 billion budget bill for the 2019-20 Fiscal Year; along with a bevy of other bills related to the spending plan.
This year’s budget spends $33.9 billion, a 1.8 percent increase in spending from the 2018-19 Fiscal Year. Notably, it does not include new taxes or fees on business and individual taxpayers and does not include an increase in the state’s minimum wage, which the governor proposed in his February budget but has been consistently opposed by the PA Chamber and other coalition members. The final budget agreement also does not include another punitive tax on the state’s natural gas industry, which had been proposed this year to help pay for the Wolf Administration’s “Restore PA” plan, to which the PA Chamber is also opposed. This latest iteration of a natural gas severance tax was packaged with $4.5 billion in borrowing to pay for a multitude of projects that are already being funded in large part by the existing impact fee paid by the natural gas industry.
The budget bill includes millions of dollars more in funding for K-12 and higher education, including $10 million more for career and technical education to help to prepare students for skilled trade jobs. There is also more money dedicated toward expansion of the state’s popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. The budget plan adds $250 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help the Commonwealth withstand any future economic downturns.
When the bill reached the governor’s desk, PA Chamber President Gene Barr issued a statement commending those at the budget negotiation table for reaching an on-time deal with no new taxes, which also makes smart investments in the EITC and Career and Technical Education programs. “We urge the legislature and the Wolf administration to build on this momentum and work together to enact pro-growth policies that will put the Commonwealth on a continued prosperous path,” Barr said, listing workforce development, regulatory and tax reform among the priorities that the PA Chamber will work with lawmakers to enact when they reconvene in the fall.