HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Budget hearings concluded in the state House on Thursday with the budget secretary. While Governor Tom Wolf’s spending plan appears DOA in the Republican-controlled legislature, Democrats kept the heat on to increase the minimum wage.
It was “prop day” for Democrats.
State Rep. Stephen Kinsey (D-Philadelphia) referenced the pricey cost of Lipitor. His colleague from Lehigh, Rep. Peter Schweyer, referenced the cost of a cheeseburger. And Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Philadelphia) spoke about the cost of groceries for many Pennsylvanians.
The point? The cost of necessities in Pennsylvania has gone up since 2009, while the minimum wage remains at $7.25.
“That’s a 34% increase since last time raised the minimum wage,” Kinsey said.
The state lawmakers want a gradual hike to $15 per hour.
“The CEO of McDonald’s earlier this year said the $15 minimum wage has had virtually no impact on the company, hasn’t driven up costs to consumers,” Schweyer said.
Republicans pounced on the Governor’s plan to raise the income tax.
“How you justify us raising taxes as we’re trying to get through this pandemic?” one lawmaker asked.
Jen Swails, Pa. Budget Secretary, explained what a tax hike means for Pennsylvanians.
‘So the proposal the Governor has put forth would not raise taxes or reduce taxes on 67% of Pennsylvanians and increase it on 33%,” Swails said.
Another criticized Governor Wolf’s little mention of coronavirus vaccines in his budget.
“I’d like to know why COVID vaccinations, the top issue on people’s minds today, didn’t even get a mention in the Governor’s address?” Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester) asked.
“Vaccinations is a federal effort. It’s being paid for by federal dollars,” Swails said.
Democrats insist the state papers over its budget shortfalls and the Governor wants to truly fix it.
“Does this budget deal with the structural deficit in an intellectually honest way? Yes. That is the most important question we need to address,” Rep. Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery), the House Appropriations Chairman, said.
But Republicans seem to be unwilling partners and unimpressed with the Governor’s plan and his people.
“These hearings have revealed examples of miscommunication and mismanagement and secretaries who were unable to answer basic questions about numbers and line items,” Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford, Franklin, Fulton) said.
Beyond the Democrats props there was also this plea.
“We have to get the poison out of our body politic that we’ve ingested over the last four years,” Bradford said.
The House hearings are now complete. The Senate will get its chance next week and continue into early April.