Governor Tom Wolf today laid out an ambitious plan to ensure Pennsylvania’s workforce has the skills and education to succeed in 21st century jobs as the commonwealth’s economy continues to grow. The proposal includes the first major investment in workforce development and skills training, including dedicated funding for STEM and computer science education, according to a press release issued by the governor’s office.
In his 2018-19 budget address, Governor Wolf asked the Republican-led General Assembly to pass a modest, commonsense severance tax that would help ensure all Pennsylvanians benefit from the prosperity of the resources under their feet.
“Let’s understand exactly what a severance tax is,” Governor Wolf said. “It’s a tax paid by people mostly outside of Pennsylvania to use our natural resources. And by failing to put in place this commonsense tax, we’re paying other states’ taxes – when we fill up our cars, or heat our homes – we’re paying for Alaska’s schools and Texas’ roads. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember getting a thank you note from anyone in Alaska or Texas.
“That could be us, too. Pennsylvania is blowing most other states out of the water when it comes to production. And by joining every other gas-producing state and passing a severance tax, we could also join them by bringing billions into our own coffers. Ask these oil and gas behemoths to pay their fair share for extracting Pennsylvania’s bountiful resources, and we can build a brighter future for Pennsylvania.”
The governor’s budget proposal continues investments in education and workforce development by providing an additional $225 million to improve education for every student across the state, regardless of ZIP code, and ensures a workforce ready for the 21st century, including $100 million for basic education funding, $20 million for special education, $30 million for Pre-K Counts, $10 million for Head Start, and $15 million for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
The proposal includes $50 million for career and technical education, including $40 million for PAsmart, a new initiative to strengthen workforce efforts at multiple state agencies by aligning those agencies’ work with K-12 and higher education.
“Developing a workforce that can compete and win in the 21st-century economy is the single best way to help Pennsylvania businesses grow – and attract new businesses to our commonwealth,” Governor Wolf said. “It’s also the single best thing we can do to help more of our people find better jobs – not just tomorrow, but today.
“Indeed, these aren’t just jobs, but careers – everything from welding and machining to coding and advanced manufacturing – careers that can sustain families and enrich communities.”
The proposed 2018-19 budget builds on efficiencies realized in last year’s budget, including a commitment to consolidating the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services into one Department of Health and Human Services.
“By creating one health and human services agency, we will be able to provide care and assistance to Pennsylvanians in a more simplified, cost-effective manner that builds on shared-services delivery initiatives already implemented and ensures that all receive high-quality services and supports,” Governor Wolf said.
Governor Wolf also proposed additional new funding to reduce waiting lists for child care assistance and services for those with autism and intellectual disabilities, and significant new funding to bolster home and community-based care for seniors.
The budget continues to support Pennsylvania’s fight against the opioid crisis by expanding access to substance use disorder treatment, prevention and education to ensure those suffering from this disease are steered into appropriate treatment and recovery.
The transcript of the budget address as prepared is available here.
Pennsylvanians can find out more about Governor Wolf’s budget at budget.pa.gov.