By Rep. Anita Kulik
On Feb. 8, Gov. Tom Wolf addressed a joint session of the House and Senate and presented his executive budget proposal for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
Every year, budget season begins with the Governor’s address and ends in late June when the Legislature votes on a final budget. In between, there are weeks of appropriations hearings.
Representatives from various state agencies and other interested groups testify before the appropriations committee and lobby all elected officials for matters of concern.
Appropriations hearings consist of testimony from all the varying state agencies as well as other interested groups who present their budget asks to the committees. It is necessary to hear from these representatives every year to assess their current budgeting needs to determine whether increases or even decreases in funding are appropriate.
Each scheduled hearing covers specific topics, from education, business and healthcare investments to more specifics like agriculture, tourism and environmental requests.
After the hearings conclude, the four caucuses from the House and Senate debate issues and work on putting together a final budget.
Key points from the Governor’s proposal address a typical array of topics, including minimum teacher salaries, charter school reform and tax credit matters. The Governor is also proposing a 24% increase in basic education spending.
This new spending includes discussion on increased spending for childcare for both families and providers.
Another large part of the Governor’s proposal is on advancing economic growth through workforce development and agriculture investments.
Agriculture is the number one industry in Pennsylvania, and this industry’s varied businesses are major parts of the Pennsylvania economy.
The Governor also addressed adding to veterans and active military services through new investments in mobile services, outreach and readiness and wellness programs for both veterans and active military from the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Closer to home, I believe it is imperative that we address infrastructure issues, small business assistance and workforce development.
Helping our towns attract new businesses and residents is also a priority. In our district alone every town is growing, with the number of new businesses and new residents increasing.
I have also advocated for additional resources for education and a recognition of the imbalance in educational funding. Some school districts have a limited tax base for their property taxes, while other districts are fortunate to have new housing and commercial developments.
While looking at ways to fund education we must be mindful of the tax burdens on seniors and property owners and look for ways to fund schools without relying heavily on property taxes.
The final budget voted on by the Legislature in June will most likely not look like what the Governor set forth in his proposal.
Generally, there will be significant compromises and changes made to bring about a balanced budget.
The House was in session the week of Feb. 7 and will return to session the third week in March.
During this time in between our general sessions, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are holding hearings to gather the information needed to put together the final budget, which is due from the Legislature by June 30.
Similarly, we are all meeting with representatives from various organizations and their advocates to inquire as to their needs and concerns.
This is a particularly good time to reach out to your elected officials – your State Representative, your State Senator, and even the Governor’s office – to comment on what you would like to see in the 2022/2023 budget, or to offer your thoughts on any particular matters being addressed.