Pennsylvanians were presented with a new state budget from Governor Tom Wolf (D) Tuesday, one which Bradford County elected officials adamantly opposed.
In a press release, Wolf commented on his proposed 2020 budget, calling it an “opportunity to make enormous progress” towards “a Commonwealth where anyone can come and anyone can build a better life” and stating that Pennsylvania has been put “back on a path to prosperity” but still has “a long way to travel.”
Wolf summed up the budget highlighting $435 million in new investments including $100 million in the “fair funding formula,” a $25 million increase in special education funding and a $30 million increase for early childhood education as well as $1 billion to fix “toxic school buildings.”
Wolf also listed adding staff to the Department of Environmental Protection, “calling for legislative action to address gaps in pipeline safety, ensuring communities are protected when a state facility closes, investments in advanced manufacturing and in the arts and gun safety reform to his high priority list for the budget.
Local elected officials including state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), state Rep. Tina Pickett (R-110) and state Rep. Clint Owlett (R-68) however spoke out against Wolf’s proposed budget, listing multiple complaints with it.
In a press release published on Tuesday, Yaw, who serves as chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, voiced discrepancies with Wolf’s plans to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which Yaw said would “lead to a discriminatory and job killing tax on all coal and gas fired electric generation plants in the Commonwealth.”
“In his budget address, the governor promised to ‘raise hundreds of millions of dollars…to make our air cleaner.’ This statement is terribly misleading and fails to account for the enormous risks to Pennsylvania’s economy and communities in the event of a RGGI carbon tax,” Yaw’s release stated.
Yaw said that coal plant owners and union labor forces report that the RGGI tax on coal plants “will likely trigger the immediate closing of those facilities” and that Pennsylvania has benefitted from more than $14 billion in capital investments in “new and efficient gas plants” since 2016.
“But, where will the next $15 billion in new gas plants be invested? In Pennsylvania? Where those plants will have to pay a 10 percent per MWh tax? Or in neighboring West Virginia or Ohio,” Yaw questioned. “And what happens to the governor’s promised “hundreds of millions of dollars” from the RGGI tax when more than one-half of carbon emissions are eliminated as a result of the coal plant closures?”
“Pennsylvania has nothing in common with the other RGGI states. Pennsylvania is blessed with an abundance of coal and natural gas resources, and as a result, possesses one of the most diverse, reliable and low-cost electric generation resources in the country, if not the world,” he continued. “Not only do we have little in common with the other RGGI states, we are in great conflict with RGGI states like New York and New Jersey, which have banned new pipelines that would allow our abundant, low cost Marcellus Shale gas to flow to large markets like New York City and Boston whose ratepayers currently have to rely on foreign imports to supply their gas needs.”
Yaw also announced that he will hold public hearings around the Commonwealth to hear from “impacted plant owners and labor forces, host communities and other stakeholders, like local governments and fuel suppliers, and to solicit input on legislation...that would underscore the General Assembly’s exclusive legislative authority to impose a carbon tax on any type of industrial emissions.”
Pickett also took issue with Wolf’s budget proposal which she called “not business friendly” in a press release on Tuesday, specifically calling attention to a lack of broadband network expansion in the budget.
“The governor is once again calling for more spending, more taxes and more debt, but that never results in creating jobs and improving the economy. To make our state successful, we need to provide a profitable business atmosphere that retains and attracts employers, she stated. “The House Republican Caucus will work toward developing a spending plan for Pennsylvania that adequately funds vital social programs, basic and higher education, and infrastructure improvements.”
“Technology demands grow daily, and we are falling behind in having adequate broadband service throughout the Commonwealth,” Pickett continued. “It affects job growth, educational advancement, medical availability and community safety. I was disappointed the governor’s proposal lacked an initiative for improving our broadband network.”
Owlett also opposed Wolf’s proposal, highlighting $587.7 million allotted to cover overspending from 2019.
“The proposal outlined by the governor today carries a high price tag — one that would hurt Pennsylvania families and rural communities, as well as eliminate any chance we have of boosting our economy and enhancing job opportunities,” Owlett stated in a press release published on Tuesday. “I am particularly offended by the governor’s continued failure to manage state spending.”
“With a great deal of hard work and effort, we enacted a budget last year that the governor agreed to and signed into law. Yet this year’s budget proposal asks for more than $587.7 million to cover overspending by Wolf and his administration. He has provided no explanation for why this overspending has occurred, despite being required to do so under a state law enacted last year,” Owlett continued. “Further budgetary gimmicks that have pushed a portion of this year’s expenses onto next year’s budget increase the level of overspending to nearly $1 billion. This is simply unacceptable. The governor is ignoring the law and the will of the General Assembly when he and his appointees disregard the budget we passed and spend whatever they want. The budget is not a suggestion. It is the law.”
Owlett also called attention to a decrease in funds being allocated to Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry.
“This budget proposal is simply more of the same from this governor. More spending. More taxes. More debt. And more cuts to initiatives important to our state’s agriculture industry. This is especially disappointing from a governor who has claimed to be pro-agriculture and one who has increased funding for his own office,” he said. “I simply cannot support the governor’s policies, as they would do nothing to help our state and would instead saddle our children with unacceptable levels of debt. This is not a pro-business budget, a pro-employer budget, a pro-family budget or a pro-taxpayer budget. It is a pro-spending, pro-taxing, pro-borrowing and pro-big government budget that has no place in our Commonwealth.