Harrisburg – Senator Mario Scavello (R-40) said he is deeply concerned with the $36.1 billion state budget announced by Governor Tom Wolf this week.
“While I have worked with the Governor and his Administration on many important budget-related issues in the past, I was surprised to see the Governor deviate from priorities we have historically shared,” Scavello said. “The Governor has deviated on several budget items that affect the quality of life for residents in my district including school property tax reform, Lyme disease funding, all-day vocational and technical education funding, and school safety funding among others.”
On property taxes, Scavello said he was frustrated that the Governor did not mention the problem in his address to the joint session of the General Assembly.
“No matter how hard we try, property tax elimination is not going to happen without Governor Wolf taking a leadership role, or at the very least acknowledging the dire situation this tax has caused for millions of Pennsylvanians,” Scavello said. “For me to have to listen to the heartbreaking stories of constituents – including a senior who told me, ‘I’m guilty of living too long’ – and continue to not hear the Governor say one word about it, that is extremely frustrating. It’s about time we take care of our seniors and his silence is deafening.”
The Senator said Gov. Wolf’s plan to give school districts $1 billion to clean up school buildings is misguided. “I strongly support our historic levels of state education funding and I have always been a big supporter of public education, but the Governor is proposing to reward the school districts who did not clean up their schools with a billion dollars of funding,” he said. “Wouldn’t that billion dollars be better used to help our seniors stay in their homes?”
The proposed budget also includes cuts in Lyme disease prevention ($500,000) and school security ($45 million).
“And while the Governor has talked about all-day vocational and technical education funding in the past, he does not show his support in this budget by providing more dollars. As a Commonwealth, we need to support and promote our students pursuing careers in these productive and profitable jobs,” Scavello said.
“It doesn’t make sense to cut funding for Lyme disease prevention in Pennsylvania, which leads the nation in cases of tick-borne illness. We should be doing more. People are hurting out there,” he added.
The Governor’s plan to fund scholarships for students attending Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools ignores the role of career and technical schools, Scavello said.
“He wants to spend $204 million for students going through the PASSHE system. Why not encourage students to first go to a community college, get your electives there, and then go to a state school? By doing that they can graduate debt free,” he said.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a three-week series of departmental budget hearings beginning on February 18. The hearings provide an opportunity for the Appropriations Committee to hear cabinet secretaries and other Administration officials detail their plans for the upcoming fiscal year. The state’s current fiscal year ends on June 30.
“I hope that in the coming weeks, through budget hearing discussions and as more details are shared by the Administration, we can get closer to developing a final budget that more closely aligns with the needs of Pennsylvania citizens.”
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