Governor Tom Wolf’s first budget includes increases for education programs and economic development initiatives. (Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Cable Network.)

Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his nearly $30 billion budget today, which includes funding increases for education and economic/workforce development.

The biggest budget increases were for education with an additional $400 million for Pre-K to 12 education, $120 million for early childhood education, and a 9.9 percent increase for higher education. Much of the governor’s educational spending at the secondary level would focus on classroom instruction.

“When I ran a business, finding talented people with a strong education was my highest priority,” Wolf told a joint session of the legislature during his budget speech. “It’s what made us competitive in the marketplace. A great public education system will help Pennsylvania attract new businesses, retain talent, and grow the middle class.”

The Department of Community and Economic Development also fared well in the governor’s budget proposal with an increase from $236 million to $282 million, an increase of nearly 19.5 percent.

Wolf’s budget proposes the creation of a Made in Pennsylvania cash-back jobs programs for manufacturing companies; seeks to better connect the state’s transportation system; and give priority to Pennsylvania companies in the grant and loan programs.

“We propose the creation of a Made in Pennsylvania cash-back jobs program,” Wolf told the legislature. “For manufacturing companies that increase their annual taxable payroll by at least one million dollars to create solid, middle-class jobs: they will receive cash payments of up to five percent of new taxable income the following year.”

At the Department of Labor and Industry, Wolf’s budget seeks a $13 million increase from $72 to $85 million, with major increases for the state’s industry partnership program.

“To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require,” Wolf said. “That’s why we are proposing to restore job training and apprenticeship programs at our community colleges, to help middle-class families make the transition to jobs in this new economy.”

Highlights of his budget proposal include:

Education

  • $6.13 billion in Basic Education Funding ($400 million increase, the largest in Pennsylvania history), along with strong and fair accountability for schools, educators and students so that Pennsylvanians can be confident in their public education investment;
  •  The 2015-16 Budget provides a $15.056 million (7.0 percent) increase to community colleges;
  • A $45.302 million (11.0 percent) increase to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to achieve policy goals;
  • $20 million for Career and Technical Education and Equipment Grants as the first step in realigning Career and Technical Education to prepare students for good-paying, high-demand, high-skill careers;
  • $197 million Pre-K Counts ($100 million increase); and
  • $238 million for Early Intervention programs for children ages 3-5.

Economic Development

  • $5 million increase to leverage Pennsylvania’s world-class research to advance manufacturing technology and commercialization;
  • A $1 million increase to the World Trade Pennsylvania program to expand promotion of Pennsylvania exports in key international markets and to attract foreign investment;
  • A $25 million increase for the Pennsylvania First program, the primary tool to attract businesses to Pennsylvania and to assist existing companies grow.
  • $11 million increase for the Infrastructure and Facilities Improvement program, contributes to vital game-changing projects that transform communities, increases the local tax base, creates jobs and supports local schools;
  • $15 million increase for Keystone Communities, to encourage stability and growth in Pennsylvania communities.
  • $1 million increase for the Early Intervention for Distressed Communities Fund to assist local municipalities struggling financially.
  • The launch of a $675 million economic development investment program, supported by a portion of the revenue from the severance tax on natural gas drilling, to perpetuate economic development initiatives.

This would include:

  1.  $250 million to the Business in Our Sights program, to allow PA to compete for business expansion and relocation projects;
  2. $225 million in energy investments; and
  3. $100 million to the PA Industrial Development Authority for business development loans and Small Business First;
  4. $100 million in technology investment to support entrepreneurs to establish companies and to implement manufacturing innovation.

Budget hearings begin next week in the House and the Senate.

 

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