HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It was delayed because of snow. And it was pre-recorded because of a pandemic. But Governor Tom Wolf laid out his spending priorities on Wednesday. He announced schools would get a lot more, but state Republicans complain that taxpayers would have to pay a lot more as a result.
“Today I’m talking to you, all of my Pennsylvanians, directly,” Gov. Wolf said.
For the first time every, a virtual budget address. But for the sixth time in six years, Gov. Wolf called for an extraction tax on Marcellus shale drilling to pay for infrastructure across the state.
Wolf also wants to increase the personal income tax from 3.07% to 4.49%, a 46-percent hike to fund massive increases in education spending.
“This is about asking folks who have already made it to share a little more of the burden so folks who haven’t made it yet have a better chance to do it,” Gov. Wolf said.
Legislative Republicans give it a thumbs down.
“This is a time when people are trying to rebuild and restore and get their head above water. To hit them with a tax increase I think it’s a non-starter,” Senator Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster County) said.
Democrats insist that poor Pennsylvanians would pay no taxes under the plan and a family of four making $84,000 or less would pay less in taxes.
“Essentially what he’s saying is your path to economic prosperity is not here in Pennsylvania, it’s probably in Texas or Florida,” Senator Kristen Phillips-Hill (R-York County) said.
State Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D) said criticism of the Governor across the aisle is that of tradition.
“That’s an annual ritual here in Harrisburg where Republicans criticize the Democratic Governor’s budget proposal,” Costa said.
The state House appropriations chairman, Rep. Matt Bradford (D), says there’s more to it than a simple tax increase or tax cut.
“There are far more folks that are gonna see a tax cut. There’s also a tax shift involved. It’s complicated,” Bradford said.
Republicans didn’t like the budget address and at least one didn’t like that Wolf didn’t deliver it in person.
“Every morning I can go to a diner and receive a socially-distant cup of coffee and the Governor doesn’t come to the Chamber,” Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland County) said.
Wolf called for a minimum wage hike and legalized marijuana, and asked lawmakers to think boldly.
“Let’s stop the excuses. Let’s move beyond the chronic timidity. Let’s do something,” Gov. Wolf said in his budget address.
The next step in the process is budget hearings — and it will be an uphill fight.
The hearings begin Feb. 16.