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HARRISBURG, February 4, 2020 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today released the following statement regarding Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed $36.055 billion state budget:

“I appreciate the work of Governor Wolf and his administration on a budget proposal that again prioritizes education, workforce development, public safety, infrastructure and our environment while avoiding broad-based tax increases.”

“On the education front, this budget includes a $100 million increase for basic education, a $25 million increase for special education and a $25 million increase for Pre-K counts. This new funding will ensure that our students get a quality public education. Importantly, the 2020-21 budget includes a $1 billion expansion of Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds that will allow school districts to apply for assistance for the remediation of lead and asbestos. Locally, Scranton and other school districts are facing fiscal challenges in making our schools safe for children and teachers.  This state grant funding is timely and necessary to improve our schools.”

“The Governor also continues to prioritize public safety and he proposes common sense measures for responsible gun safety as well as a comprehensive plan to address natural gas pipeline safety. I am also encouraged by the increases in funding to the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for additional capacity to enforce environmental protection and to improve our state parks and state forests.”

“The Governor’s budget proposal emphasizes policies that generate positive economic activity, empower our workers and create opportunities for workforce development and training. Pennsylvania remains the only state in our region that mirrors the federal minimum wage at $7.25 – this proposal would increase our minimum wage to $12 per hour and put us on equal footing with our neighboring states. Pennsylvanians working a forty-hour work week ought not be locked in poverty. The Governor also proposes a number of business and tax fairness initiatives that I have supported since taking office – including instituting combined reporting and reducing our state’s Corporate Net Income Tax.”

“I also applaud the Governor’s plan to encourage graduates of our State System of Higher Education schools to remain in Pennsylvania by reducing the debt these graduates incur in obtaining their degrees.  Further, as a member of the board of the PA Higher Education Assistance Agency, I commend the Governor’s proposal to increase funding for PHEAA’s grant program which provides essential support to reduce the cost of higher education in this Commonwealth.”

“This budget represents a solid starting point, but there are a few key line items that I hope to see negotiated over the next five months. This budget fails to provide sufficient funding for our Regional Cancer Institutes, and it reduces funding to our academic medical centers which impacts the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM).  I will fight to bring adequate state support to these institutions until we vote on a balanced state budget in June.”

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