Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf presented his $34.1 billion 2019-20 budget proposal on Tuesday.
A core component is the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center, which brings together agency heads and public and private sector experts to find solutions that connect skilled workers with good jobs that employers need today and in the future, according to a press release from the governor's office.
The budget expands access to early childhood education, increases investments in schools and partners with the private sector to build on the PAsmart initiative, launched last year for workforce workforce development.
“The governor’s budget address gave us a bit of a mixed bag," state Sen. Judy Ward, a Republican whose district includes Greencastle and Antrim Township, said in a press release. "There are certainly priorities we share, including workforce development and job training to make our state more attractive to job creators. I am hopeful that many of these measures will be part of the final budget plan so we can create more job opportunities to support local families. The fact that he presented a plan without a broad-based tax increase is also a strong step in the right direction.
“While there are reasons to be optimistic, there are also a number of concerns that need to be addressed," Ward said. "The budget proposes to spend nearly a billion dollars more than the previous year, and a number of agricultural programs and health initiatives were eliminated. Addressing these parts of the budget will play a critical role in protecting our way of life in central Pennsylvania and promoting our local economy.
“I look forward to digging deeper into the budget proposal in the weeks and months to come, and working with my colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives to explore potential improvements that will ensure all of our tax dollars are spent wisely and responsibly'" Ward said.
Highlights of the proposed spending plan provided by the governor's office:
Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center
Tackling the skills gap and creating a well-trained workforce requires government, schools and industry to work together. PAsmart was the first step, but Wolf wants bolder action. Soon the governor will sign an executive order creating the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center. The departments of Community and Economic Development, Labor & Industry, State and others will partner with external leaders to find solutions that will strengthen the state's workforce.
Early Childhood Development and Parent Support
Parents cannot work if they lack food, housing or childcare. To break the cycle of poverty, the governor’s budget invests in early childhood education and removes barriers for low-income parents. The proposal provides $5 million to expand home-visiting programs for pregnant women and at-risk infants and toddlers, $15 million in federal funds to reduce waiting lists for high-quality childcare, and $5 million for wrap-around services so parents can attend college or other training to get skills for family-sustaining jobs.
Education and Career Training
The governor’s budget continues investments to improve public schools along with more funding for early childhood programs, K-12, and higher education. The budget provides increases of $200 million for basic education, $50 million for pre-K and Head Start, $50 million for special education, $7 million for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and $8 million in one-time grants for community college students or graduates who are working in Pennsylvania.
PAsmart is aimed connecting Pennsylvanians with education and training opportunities, apprenticeships and STEM careers and the governor’s budget expands this initiative with an additional $4 million to help Pennsylvania manufacturers train workers and $6 million to expand career and technical education for adults.
Wolf is also proposing to save nearly $120 million over the next two years by raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour on July 1, 2019. The boost in pay for one million workers would enable tens of thousands of people to work their way off of public assistance, reducing the burden on taxpayers who are subsidizing low wages.
To prevent students from falling behind, the governor’s plan lowers the age when students must start attending school from 8 to 6 and increases the dropout age from 17 to 18. The administration will also study the benefits of providing free full day kindergarten to all children starting at age 5.