Merski supports proposed budget investments in education, working families, public health

HARRISBURG, Feb. 3 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address today.

“Restoring the strength of our local businesses and communities will dominate budget planning this year as we work to distribute additional federal COVID relief funding. Speeding funding to our community’s restaurants, bars, shops and other local businesses will be critical. As we await more federal funding, I support the governor’s proposal to immediately allocate $145 million in state funding now to help these businesses survive.

“While federal funding will obviously play a major role in economic recovery this year, our plans for allocating state funding in other critical areas like education are going to shape our community’s rebound and recovery. I strongly support the governor’s proposal to make education funding more equitable through a significant investment in the fair funding formula. Public education can be one of life’s greatest equalizers – but only if every student has access to the same high-quality curricula regardless of household income.   

“I also support continued investments to make public college more affordable, so young adults don’t start off in life struggling under a huge student debt burden. I am encouraged to hear about proposed investments in Erie County Community College, which promises to expand affordable education opportunities, while also generating jobs and economic growth for our region. 

“I support the governor’s proposal to increase the minimum wage, which is below the minimum of many other states. For years, Pennsylvania working families have been forced to make unacceptable compromises, picking and choosing among basic life necessities. Raising the minimum wage to a living wage would allow families to thrive, and it would also help jumpstart the local economy by giving people more disposable income to invest back into local businesses. 

“Finally, I support the governor’s proposed investments in public health, including more funding to local and county health departments to help them combat the ongoing pandemic. We need to fortify our local response capability and also improve preparedness so we can respond as quickly and efficiently as possible both now and for future emergencies.

“Of course, these proposals from the governor are just a starting point, and the plan now moves to the House Appropriations Committee. In the weeks ahead, I will be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to hammer out a plan that works best for Erie’s working families.”