Harkins: Budget proposals hold promise for state’s future

HARRISBURG, Feb. 4 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s address this morning on his proposed 2020-21 budget plan:  

“The budget plan the governor unveiled today is a work in progress, but I’m encouraged that it allocates resources to areas I feel are especially important to Pennsylvania’s future. 

“One of those areas is full-time kindergarten, a proposal I have been advocating for years. Studies show kindergartners who have access to a full-day program do better, both in terms of test scores and future long-term achievement, because they benefit from the extra time to develop literacy skills, social skills, confidence and more. I agree with the governor’s proposal to mandate free, full-time kindergarten, and I believe it's time for Pennsylvania to join other states that already do so.

“On a related note, I support the governor’s proposal to address the problem of lead, asbestos and other hazards in our schools. Our community has been dealing with the problems of older buildings and the expenses associated with eliminating possible health hazards, and an investment of state resources will help ease the cost burdens and speed the process of ensuring our students have a safe environment.

“Addressing the burden of loan debt for students graduating from our state-owned university system is another proposal I strongly support. Pennsylvania grads struggle with some of the highest student loan debt in the nation, and it’s a burden that makes it incredibly difficult for them to stay in the state, raise families here and give back to the local economy. A proposal that encourages them to remain in the state while providing much-needed debt relief can help a new generation thrive.

“As Democratic chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee, I strongly support the governor’s proposal to raise the minimum wage. Our lowest-paid workers have gone for more than a decade without a raise, which makes it incredibly difficult for our working families to thrive.

“Finally, I support investments in the governor’s Workforce Command Center, which works to identify barriers to employment and equip workers with the skills needed for good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.

“Of course, the plan is merely a blueprint for the months ahead. But I believe it’s a good start for Erie’s working families and heads us in the right direction.”