HARRISBURG – Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) and other members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly today heard Gov. Tom Wolf’s spending proposals for Fiscal Year 2019-20 during his annual budget address.
The governor’s budget totals $34.1 billion, which is a $927 million increase over the current year. His plan does not include any new taxes on Pennsylvania residents, instead he called for an increase in the minimum wage and a number of fund transfers to support the additional spending. Wolf also wants to impose a severance tax on the natural gas industry, as he has unsuccessfully sought in previous years.
Toohil issued the following statement regarding the governor’s budget proposal:
“The governor stated that he is not seeking to impose any new taxes, which received resounding applause from both sides of the chamber. Frankly, I was surprised at the conservative tone of the speech.
“I was pleased to hear that the governor wants to improve education access for younger children. I completely agree that the state should mandate that children begin school at age 6, rather than age 8. I also agree with his proposal to raise the minimum dropout age from 17 years old to 18 years old.
“His call to increase the minimum starting salary for Pennsylvania teachers to $45,000 is another good idea. A yearly salary of $18,500 for a teacher, school professional or guidance counselor is completely unacceptable.
“We did not hear a lot of details about the governor’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for entry-level positions. I do believe that we need to increase the minimum wage, but doubling it may jeopardize jobs and cripple small businesses.
“As work on the budget moves forward, the House Republican Caucus is going to continue to protect the taxpayer’s wallets and make sure that state spending is done responsibly.”
The governor’s address is the traditional start of the budget process. The next step is a series of budget hearings by the House Appropriations Committee, which are scheduled to begin on Feb. 11.
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives