Budget Update: A Mixed Bag
I am happy to report that the General Assembly passed a budget last Friday that fulfills one of the governor’s key objectives and prioritizes public education, investing in classrooms, career and technical education, early childhood programs, special education and school safety, a need made more acute by the rash of recent school shootings. As a former longtime public school teacher and a great believer in the necessity and promise of public education, I am pleased with this direction. But make no mistake: This budget is not the visionary budget I would like to see passed to address the real needs of Pennsylvanians. Key among them: a fair living wage.
Working Pennsylvanians in both the public and private sector desperately need an increase in our current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Every one of our neighboring states has a minimum wage at least $1 per hour higher than ours (in Ohio, the minimum wage for employers grossing $299,000 per year or less is $7.25, the same as ours, but it is $8.30 per hour for those grossing more). In the case of New York, it is more than $3 per hour higher than ours. The Commonwealth needs a minimum wage that competes with the wages being paid in our neighboring states, and our workers need a family-sustaining minimum wage.
While the 2018/19 budget contains no new tax increases, it also avoids a needed and long overdue severance tax on natural gas that could have raised nearly $250 million in new revenue. That money could have funded needed educational programs such as Plan Con to help with school construction or projects related to storm water and sewer repair and replacement statewide.
What we, the people of Pennsylvania, are getting is a budget very similar to last year’s — one in which spending will increase below the rate of inflation and decisions about key needs for the future are pushed off for yet another year.
Rest assured that in the coming year, I will continue to fight for legislation and priorities that push Pennsylvania and working Pennsylvanians forward, not hold us back.
As always, if you have any questions about the budget or any other legislative concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my district office at (215) 572-5210 or RepMcCarter@pahouse.net.