Harrisburg – July 14, 2016 – State Sen. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) posted the following statement concerning the completion of the budget process for Fiscal Year 2016-17. On July 13, a $1.24 revenue package (House Bill 1198) cleared the Senate to balance the $31.5 billion state spending plan (Senate Bill 1073) that went into effect earlier this week.

“A year and a half into my first term of serving with Governor Tom Wolf, there is no question that Pennsylvania is changing direction. The General Assembly passed a balanced budget that increases our investment in education, provides new money to treat opioid addiction and repairs holes in our social safety net. While we have made advances, we still have a long way to go to turn the state completely around. Keep in mind, every budget is a statement of priorities. This budget was a product of bipartisan compromise. Here are the results:

“Under Governor Wolf’s first two budgets – and as a result of the bipartisan agreement this year — we have increased funding by $415 million for basic education and instituted a fair funding formula that seeks to close the school funding disparities; there is now $50 million more invested in special education with an additional $50 million earmarked for Pre-K and $10 million more for HeadStart. Importantly, higher education funding was boosted by $161 million, including PHEAA grants to students. Given that education is the foundation of opportunity, these are critical investments that will have long-term benefits.

“We have also invested in human services funding with a $620 million increase, including $15 million this year to fight opioid addiction. There are increases for vocational rehabilitation, domestic violence prevention and legal services that will help our most vulnerable citizens. In the area of job creation, incentives were adopted to encourage manufacturing, commercial/residential real estate development and community development. These critical investments will directly benefit Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.

“While advances have been made, there is more work to do. Funding for human services remains stretched and additional funding for infrastructure and water and sewer lags. Problematically, once again, the shale drilling industry has gotten off the hook and escaped paying a responsible severance tax. Unfortunately, yet again, low wage earners and our economy continue to be squeezed as there was little movement toward raising the $7.25 minimum wage. Raising the minimum will increase consumer spending, create jobs and generate revenue for the state.

“For Pennsylvania to complete a turnaround from the bad old days of disinvestment and disjointed policy, we will need to stop the rigged tax system that continues to place two to three times the tax burden on everyday Pennsylvanians. We need to raise the minimum wage and increase our investment in infrastructure. A fair economy benefits all. I invite you to join me as a citizen advocate fighting for progress in the year ahead. I thank you for your support.”