Thursday, June 23, 2016

Gov. Wolf Outlines His Priority Budget Asks, Nothing For The Environment

On Wednesday, Jeff Sheridan, Gov. Wolf’s Press Secretary, sent a memo to reporters outlining the compromises the Governor has made to reach an FY 2016-17 budget agreement and lists his budget priorities.
Gov. Wolf does not have any environmental funding priorities or issues on the list.  
In fact, he has agreed to kill conventional drilling regulations— Senate Bill 279 (Hutchinson-R-Venango), now Act 52, agreed to more legislative oversight for any DEP plan to implement the EPA Clean Power Climate Rule— Senate Bill 1195 (White-R-Indiana), now Act 57, — and is now negotiating with House Republicans over whether to set up an independent board to approve private recreational developments on State Park land— House Bill 2013.
The text of Sheridan’s memo follows—
Four months after his budget address, and after talking with Republicans and Democrats about how to achieve a responsible budget, Gov. Wolf has compromised on issues ranging from taxes to liquor reform while making it clear that we need to invest in education, fight the opioid crisis, and truly balance the budget with sustainable revenue.
These are bipartisan goals – shared by Republicans and Democrats – and we need to finalize a compromise budget that includes these priorities.
No Broad-Based Taxes
Gov. Wolf initially proposed increased sales and income taxes to balance the budget and fund key priorities like education funding and fighting the opioid epidemic, but yesterday he took these proposals off the table. This is a significant compromise.
Gov. Wolf still believes we need sustainable revenue to balance the budget. We cannot afford more one-time funds and delayed payments. But he is willing to work with the legislature and agree on proposals like a responsible tax on cigarettes in order to get long-term, sustainable revenue that will fund key initiatives and stave off cuts to programs.
Reduced Spending
Gov. Wolf proposed a budget that totals $33.3 billion. Through negotiations with Republicans and Democrats, he has reduced his request by well over one billion dollars. This included flat funding many programs.
The governor has made significant compromises, and now it is important to have a thorough and honest discussion about the funding levels we need to make sure the people of Pennsylvania have the services they need.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
Gov. Wolf has traveled the Commonwealth for months talking about how to address the opioid crisis. Republicans and Democrats have provided solutions and important feedback that will help Pennsylvania overcome a crisis that has struck every town and every city.
But right now, we need to make an investment in treatment for those suffering from addiction. This cannot wait. We need to fund treatment to stop preventable deaths in Pennsylvania.
Every month we wait, hundreds of Pennsylvanians die from opioid overdoses. The governor proposed $34 million in his budget for treatment centers. This is an important step, but we need to make sure that we take this step while working diligently on other solutions and ideas.
Funding Our Schools
Gov. Wolf has made improving Pennsylvania's schools his top priority. Last month, Gov. Wolf and the legislature joined together to pass legislation to fairly fund Pennsylvania's schools for the first time.
Now, we have to provide the money to make the fair funding formula work.
Gov. Wolf is asking for $250 million more for Basic Education Funding, along with $30 million for early childhood education, and $30 million for special education. These are compromises from his initial spending proposals, but they are still important investments that will help Pennsylvania's students succeed.
Pennsylvania has a constitutional obligation to provide a thorough and efficient education to its students, and Gov. Wolf is committed to getting our schools back on track. We cannot backtrack and Pennsylvania's students cannot afford continued divestment in our schools.
Liquor Reform
Last month, Gov. Wolf signed historic liquor reforms that were the top priority of House Republicans. These reforms will improve customer convenience by making wine and beer available in more locations while expanding hours for stores.
Pension Reform
Gov. Wolf supports pension reform. There are two versions of pension reform before the legislature, and Governor Wolf has said he will sign either version. Pension reform is a top priority of the Senate Republicans and Gov. Wolf is committed to working with the legislature to reform our pension system.
Gov. Wolf's compromises have brought us close to a final budget. He has signed liquor reform, taken broad-based taxes off the table, and said repeatedly that he will sign pension reform.
He continues to have three simple priorities that he expects this budget to meet--
That's it. The legislature is working hard to finalize a budget, and Gov. Wolf is committed to working with them to ensure that we fund our schools, fight the opioid crisis, and balance the budget. After months of compromise and bipartisanship, nothing less will do.
The Senate and House are scheduled to be in continuous voting session now through June 30.

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