Local legislators issued statements in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2019-20 budget proposal, with a $34 billion spending plan, which was unveiled Feb. 5 to the General Assembly.

Sen. David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill) released the following statement, “The plan proposed by the governor today includes some proposals that should earn bipartisan support, including funding for flood-ravaged communities, new tools to address blight, and initiatives to help create jobs and train workers for new careers. These ideas deserve a prompt and comprehensive review in order to promote stronger communities and a more robust economy not only in Schuylkill and Berks counties, but throughout Pennsylvania.”

Argall continued, saying that while Wolf’s budget address offers a viable starting point for negotiations, Argall believes they need to go one step further and address other issues that impact every Pennsylvania community – including the growth in government spending.

“We should implement commonsense work requirements for able-bodied welfare recipients and increase our efforts to reduce welfare fraud.”

Argall also expressed concerns about the governor’s plan to cut $15 million from school safety.

“Given the terrible events of the past year, there was broad bipartisan support for additional school safety funding in last year’s budget. We should be able to work together once again to restore this funding and ensure our young people can enjoy a safer learning environment.”

Property taxes are also a concern for Argall.

“My biggest disappointment is the lack of a solution to Pennsylvania’s property tax crisis. I am proud to stand with the bipartisan coalition of grassroots organizations who are leading the charge toward property tax elimination,” said Argall. “We need the Governor to join us in developing a fairer way to fund our schools, rather than continue to depend upon this unfair property tax model which dates back to the 1600s.”

Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh/Berks) issued the following statement, “As is typically the case, there were both positives and negatives that struck me during the governor’s address. As someone who has been a long-time proponent of workforce development, I was glad to hear him highlight that as an area of focus. The state, as a whole, will benefit from preparing today’s job seekers with the skills they need to land family-sustaining jobs.”

Mackenzie said that the part of the governor’s speech that gained the most applause was the announcement to not seek any broad-based taxes.

“This is good news; however, I question how he plans to pay for his aggressive budget plan. One-time funding and money transfers are not sustainable, nor are they a wise approach to balancing the budget. We need to be fiscally responsible when determining our spending needs and priorities and how we plan to afford them.”

Mackenzie notes that, as always, this is only the beginning of the budget process.

“In the coming weeks the House will dive deeper into the governor’s proposal and unveil our own vision for the state budget. I look forward to working with the governor and our counterparts in the Senate to craft a budget we can all agree to.”

Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill) views Wolf’s budget proposal as positive starting point.

“It’s always nice to hear the governor say that there are no news taxes included in the state budget. However, the governor failed to mention his previous commitments to imposing the largest energy tax in the nation on Pennsylvania taxpayers and job creators,” said Knowles in a statement.

“Time and again, I hear from people that they are ‘taxed out.’ So, I was hoping that the governor would finally include property tax elimination in this year’s budget address. Sadly, that didn’t happen either.

“Again, the governor’s budget address is only a starting point for future negotiations. As a proud graduate of Thaddeus Stevens Trade School, I am looking forward to working together with the governor to give our schools the flexibility to expand career, trade-based and technical education opportunities. Our young people need this proven workforce development training to succeed in high-demand jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.”

Rep. Gary Day (R-Lehigh/Berks) issued the following statement, “House Republicans have a 10-year record of not increasing income taxes on hard-working taxpayers and working within our means when it comes to the state budget. We have also put record amounts of funding toward education, particularly helping our career and technical centers and giving city families individual choice. We have lead Pennsylvania in the right direction for 10 years, and I intend to continue to advocate for these priorities in this year’s budget process.

“The governor’s plan calls for merging certain budget accounts together, which would give him more flexibility and power over how taxpayer money is spent. It’s important we review these proposals and determine if the mergers would truly help the Commonwealth stay on the right track or if they would give Harrisburg insiders more say than you.”

Wolf proposed a $34.15 billion budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which is a $927 million increase over last year’s budget.

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