Gov. Wolf: "Our Commonwealth is in crisis"

Written by Mary Wilson | Feb 9, 2016 12:15 PM

Photo by AP Photo/Matt Rourke

(Harrisburg) -- Still mired in his first budget fight, Governor Tom Wolf is making the second budget address of his term.

The state government is setting another modern state record for gridlock as the governor sends a new spending plan to lawmakers, even as they keep fighting over billions in the current budget. 

The $33.3 billion spending plan contains a two-year, 14 percent increase.

"My fellow Pennsylvanians: Our Commonwealth is in crisis," the governor began. "A crisis that threatens our future."

It calls for more funding for K-12 schools and higher education.

Wolf also wants to put more money into county human services and programs for people with intellectual disabilities.

His budget proposal would rein in spending by charter schools and he would put more money toward treatment options for people battling addictions to opioids and heroin.

The administration says most of the new spending is in mandated costs, like pensions and human services.

To pay for it, Wolf is proposing $2.7 billion in new and higher taxes.

"This crisis is not about politics at all. This is about math," Wolf told the General Assembly. "Pennsylvania now faces a $2 billion budget deficit. That's not a Democratic fact or a Republican fact. It's just a fact."

The package includes a levy on natural gas drillers, and a hike in the personal income tax.

Wolf would expand the sales tax to make it apply to movie tickets, basic cable services, and digital downloads.

He's calling for higher taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The governor's plan would also hike taxes on banks and put a surcharge on insurance premiums.

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