Berks lawmakers on both sides weigh in on Wolf's address

Budget would boost spending by about $1 billion

HARRISBURG, Pa. - There was a lot to tackle as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf stepped to the podium to present his budget proposal, but the first order of business?

"We now have seven Super Bowl rings in Pennsylvania," said Wolf, sporting a Philadelphia Eagles cap, as many cheered. "That’s something we can all be proud of."

What may be even more challenging than getting a Super Bowl victory is getting a budget approved on time.

"Sometimes, we've worked our way to a compromise. Sometimes, I've had to move forward on my own," Wolf said. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Wolf is proposing a Marcellus Shale natural gas tax, a raise in the minimum wage to $12 an hour, and adding $100 million to public education school funding.

"Businesses don't invest in states that don't invest in education, in infrastructure or job training," Wolf said.

It's not the first time Wolf has proposed a natural gas severance tax.

"By joining every other gas-producing state in passing a severance tax, we can also join them by bringing billions of dollars into our own coffers," the governor explained.

Republican state Sen. David Argall said he was expecting more detail.

"It was a bit more of a campaign speech than an issues speech," said Argall, who represents Berks and Schuylkill counties.

Argall said he expected to hear more on one particular tax-related issue.

"He spoke about 50 different issues and didn't mention the most important one in Berks County and beyond," Argall said. "No mention at all of property taxes."

State Sen. Judy Schwank, a Berks County Democrat, said Wolf's education push is important to Berks County school districts.

"All of our school districts, all 18 school districts, are working together on a career education path so that we give our students so many options," Schwank told 69 News.

In terms of a timetable for passage of the budget, which would boost spending by about $1 billion, or 3 percent, to $33 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1? That remains to be seen.

"We should be able to get this done in a reasonable amount of time, so there's really not much to quibble about," said Schwank.

"I am hearing that this is going to be a better year. That's the rumors I want to believe," Argall said.

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