Please find an update on what has been happening in Harrisburg and around the 32nd District below.
FY 2017-2018 Budget Update
On June 30 2017, I voted for a bipartisan $31.9 billion state budget that increases spending by only 0.2% over last year’s budget. It is not a perfect budget, nor was the process used how I would have come to its conclusion. Compared to how my first budget unfolded though, it is important to note the progress we have made since then.
Two years ago Governor Wolf proposed a massive $4 billion dollar tax increase, primarily through the income and sales tax, and the largest increase in state spending in a generation. My colleagues and I in the legislature stood against those tax increases and urged a restrained approach to the state budget. A protracted battle took place and the taxpayers had to weigh in with which approach they wanted. Time and time again the citizens of Pennsylvania have sided with those who want less government. This budget is a win for those who urge restraint in spending. It will not require the type of broad based tax increases that Governor Wolf has championed.
This budget is a win for Pennsylvania’s students as it increases basic education funding by $100 Million and prioritizes special education and early education as well. It also preserves school transportation dollars from Governor Wolf’s proposed cut, which would have disproportionally affected rural school districts.
We were also able to preserve the agriculture line items in the budget from the Governor’s proposed cuts another direct attack on rural PA. Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s largest industry and these investments ensure that we remain a leader in that field.
These increases are counteracted by a $103 million cut to Corrections, a sign that our criminal justice reforms are beginning to work and pay dividends. We also cut $247 million from the Department of Human Services and $29 million from the Department of Health as we work to reform our entitlement programs. Finally most departments see a cut to their administrative costs across the board.
If Pennsylvania is to pull itself out of our fiscal situation we must focus on the big issues that are holding us back. We must focus not on taxing people more, but rather on taxing more people. In other words, we have to create the conditions for business growth and job creation. This can only be done by tax reform, including property taxes, and regulatory reform. I have not seen a serious commitment from the Wolf administration on these issues. I think this budget reflects the best we can do with the current administration’s focus on increased spending and taxes.
While this budget does not set us on a path for long-term financial solvency, I look forward to getting back to the drawing board and fulfil my promise to the people of the 32nd District by pushing for tax reform, regulatory reform, and property tax reform in the 2018-2019 budget and beyond.
Mon-Fayette Expressway Made a Priority
Last week the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission voted to extend the Mon-Fayette Expressway to Monroeville, adding the 14 mile, $2.1 billion project to the Transportation Improvement Plan for 2017-2020.
I'm deeply grateful to the commissioners of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission for their forward-looking vision today in approving the Mon Fayette Expressway.
Support for this road has been passed down through the generations and today's vote is the first step in completing this vital economic driver.
The economic benefits the Expressway has yielded in the southern portion of the road, as shown with the industrial parks in Smithfield, finally have a chance to be realized in the northern portions of the Expressway.
You can read more about the project and its potential impact on our region in my op-ed: http://www.senatorstefano.com/2017/07/03/op-ed-expressway-teamwork-pays-off/
Red Raiders at the Capitol
Last week, I had the honor of hosting Coach Miller the State Champion Meyersdale Red Raiders Baseball team.
What a great group of young men who represented our area well not just because they won, but in how they played the game and carry themselves on and off the field.
“Out work, out hustle, out play, and let the chips fall where they may”
Congratulations, Meyersdale Red Raiders!
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