Gov. Wolf: Budget Sets Pennsylvania on Path Toward Long-Term Prosperity

June 28, 2019

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf outlined the significant advancements made in the 2019-20 budget that will help move Pennsylvania towards a future of long-term prosperity. The budget makes investments in all levels of education; builds on progress to have the nation’s strongest workforce; provides lower cost options for health insurance; and helps children, families, vulnerable populations, farmers and veterans, all while making the largest deposit in the Rainy Day Fund in two decades and delivering structural balance after years of deficits.

Later today, Gov. Wolf will sign the General Appropriations (HB790), Human Services Code (HB33/SB695), Fiscal Code (SB712), Tax Code (HB262), Admin Code (HB1461), and School Code (HB1615/SB144) Bills.

Gov. Wolf made the following statement:

“I am proud of the budget before me: More than $300 million for education. Lower health care costs for at least 400,000 Pennsylvanians. The first major state reforms to combat campus sexual assault. Officially doubling early childhood education funding in five years. Stopping cuts to agencies and other services. Making sure kids start school at age six and stay there until they are 18. The most expansive state GI bill in the nation. Spurring agricultural development in rural and urban communities with a Farm Bill tailored to Pennsylvania farmers’ specific needs. A comprehensive plan to build the nation’s strongest workforce. More funding for critical human services, including child care, home-visiting programs, services for people with disabilities, early intervention programs and funding to upgrade and secure our voter registration database.

“But, I lament some of what we were not able to pass.

“I am going to keep fighting tooth and nail for a higher minimum wage. I am going to keep pushing for infrastructure funding that will help strengthen and rebuild our communities. I’m going to keep working to lower the Corporate Net Income Tax so companies know that Pennsylvania is open for business. I’m going to keep advocating for non-discrimination legislation that signals that Pennsylvania welcomes everyone. And I will keep fighting for support for our most vulnerable neighbors.

“That’s why even though the legislature eliminated general assistance, I made sure to include an additional $15 million for low-income housing assistance. This will help a lot of the same individuals who previously received general assistance from the commonwealth. It will provide valuable resources to make sure they have a roof over their head. But there is more we can and should do to lift people out of poverty.

“In divided government you have to advocate aggressively, you have to negotiate hard, and you also have to do what’s best for all of the people you serve.

“You have to do everything you can to promote the most forward-looking agenda you can conceive, and to prevent regressive policies from becoming law. You have to fight for every inch to help all of the people.

“This is the job I was elected to do. This is a job I take seriously. This is a job I’m honored to have.

“I am going to keep working every single day to make progress for the people of Pennsylvania. All of the people. And today I am proud of what we were able to accomplish together over the past few months.”

Increasing Investments in Education and Workforce Development

Gov. Wolf’s top priority is education. This year’s budget advances his goal of investing in schools and workforce development. With this year’s funding increase of $265 million for education, the governor has now secured more than $1.2 billion in public education funding since taking office.

Among other investments, the budget accomplishes the following:
• Provides an increase of $265 million for Pre-K through 12, including $160 million for basic education, $25 million for Pre-K Counts, $5 million for Head Start, and $15 million for preschool Early Intervention. With this funding, Pennsylvania has doubled investments in early childhood education during Gov. Wolf’s time in office.
• Increases funding for higher education by 2 percent for Pennsylvania’s community colleges, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and the state-related universities. Over the past five years, funding for higher education has increased by $188 million.
• Expands on the innovative PAsmart workforce development program by again providing $20 million for STEM and computer science education, $10 million for job training and apprenticeships and an additional $10 million to support career and technical education.
• Raises the school dropout age from 17 to 18 and lowers the required age to start school from 8 to 6.

“This budget makes big strides in pursuing my goal of making Pennsylvania’s workforce the best in the nation,” said Gov. Wolf. “When I came to office, I made my desire to better fund our public schools clear. But making our schools stronger and preparing our students for careers that will allow them to thrive in Pennsylvania is about more than just money. Today, I will put into law a new compulsory age of attendance in Pennsylvania. Combined with changes in graduation requirements that focus on trade and technical skills along with historic investments in technical education, we will prepare more students for a wider range of careers.

“Additionally, since I took office, we’ve more than doubled the annual investment in early childhood education from $136 million to $276 million. That’s an investment I’m really proud of because it shows a significant commitment to the future of our commonwealth.”

Gov. Wolf is a steadfast supporter of campus safety and nearly three years ago established It’s On Us PA, the nation’s first statewide campaign. The budget package includes initiatives that encourage students to report sexual assault by providing them immunity for violating drug, alcohol, and other minor student conduct policies. Another initiative requires postsecondary institutions to offer students online, anonymous options to report a sexual assault or misconduct.

“More than three years ago, PA became the first state in the nation to start an It’s On Us program to combat sexual assault. I have visited colleges and universities, I have sat with survivors of sexual violence, and I have repeatedly asked for legislation on my desk that will protect our students from sexual assault,” said Gov. Wolf. “I am proud to be able to sign two key bills that will encourage the reporting of sexual violence, and will help quell the epidemic of sexual assault on our college campuses.”

Supporting Vulnerable Pennsylvanians

Gov. Wolf believes our commonwealth succeeds when all individuals have opportunities for their own success. This year’s budget assists in this mission by:
• Increasing home visiting services to reach an additional 800 vulnerable families. This program has been proven to reduce neglect and abuse and improve health and education outcomes.
• Increasing the number of slots in high-quality and affordable day care programs, and the amount of available child care subsidies so more children start life on the right path.
• Raising the rate for Early Intervention (EI) programs for the first time in a decade, this 3 percent rate increase will assist EI providers in recruiting and retaining qualified staff members to serve the at-risk children and families in the EI system.
• Increased funding to take nearly 800 individuals off of the waiting list for services for people with intellectual disabilities.

“This budget makes critical investments in early childhood education that will ensure our youngest Pennsylvanians are starting out on a solid footing, giving them lifelong skills and new opportunities,” said Gov. Wolf. “And, we’re expanding support for vulnerable families, including increasing the number of high-quality, affordable childcare slots and adding significant funding to evidence-based home visiting programs.”

Restoring Pennsylvania’s Fiscal Health

Gov. Wolf is committed to the long-term prosperity of Pennsylvania. As part of the 2019-20 budget, the governor will make a $330 million deposit into the Rainy Day Fund. The deposit is the governor’s second significant transfer into the fund, which held just $250,000 when he took office. After the transfer, the fund will contains more than $350 million, a significant step toward restoring Pennsylvania’s fiscal health.

“Making this $330 million deposit into the Rainy Day Fund is incredibly important for the future of our commonwealth – and we’re doing it with a balanced budget,” said Gov. Wolf. “Growing our Rainy Day Fund means that in worse economic times, we have funds to avoid the disastrous cuts we’ve seen before.”

Securing Historic Funding to PA Agriculture

Gov. Wolf has remained steadfast in his plight to boost Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry since first presenting his six-point plan less than one year ago. This year’s budget invests $23.1 million to provide for business development and succession planning, create accommodations for a growing animal agriculture sector, remove regulatory burdens, strengthen the ag workforce, protect infrastructure, and make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state.

“The agriculture industry is a critical part of Pennsylvania’s economy,” said Gov. Wolf. “This package of bills will support legacy farms and new business ventures.”

Significant investments guided by the governor’s plan to bolster the agriculture industry include:
• $6 million to provide grants, loans and tax credits for farmers to install and implement best management practices.
• $5 million to fund research and development, organic transition assistance, value-added processing, and marketing grants in support of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.
• $500,000 to re-establish a program to fund agricultural and rural youth organizations to help increase knowledge and awareness of agricultural issues within the commonwealth.
• $500,000 to improve agriculture infrastructure in urban areas, the aggregation of product, sharing of resources, and support for community development efforts.
• $2 million to create a Agricultural Business Development Center to serve as a resource to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan, or succession plan.
• $2.6 million to support the overall PA Preferred program, bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes Program, and develop the PA Preferred Organic initiative.

Supporting PA National Guard Families

Gov. Wolf recognizes the sacrifices Pennsylvania National Guard members and their families make to protect our commonwealth. To support them in return, Gov. Wolf established the PA GI Bill, a first-in-the-nation program to provide spouses and children of Pennsylvania National Guard members tuition reimbursement for higher education.

“I’m proud to say we have done more to make the lives of Pennsylvanians better,” said Gov. Wolf. “The PA GI Bill is a fitting way to show our gratitude to our military member and their families.”

The program will enable:
• Pennsylvania National Guard members who commit to an additional six years of service to receive five years or 10 semesters of higher education benefits for their spouses and children.
• The benefit must be used at a Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) approved educational institution at the tuition rate set by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
• The PA GI bill could benefit up to 8,000 military family members.

Increasing Access to Affordable Health Care: State-Based Exchange and Reinsurance

In addition to these investments, the governor has secured the most significant health care reform since the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): the authority to implement a state-based marketplace that will allow for greater access to affordable, quality health insurance for Pennsylvanians. The state-based marketplace, in conjunction with a federal waiver, will also enable a new re-insurance program that will significantly lower premiums for those who purchase their health insurance through the individual market beginning in 2021 – all without spending a single dollar from the state’s general fund.

“Too many people are paying too much and getting too little out of their insurance,” said Gov. Wolf. “This is an opportunity for Pennsylvania to lead on health care reform. Because of this bill, families will have more money to spend on the things they want without having to worry about whether or not they can get the care they or their loved ones need. “

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