House Democrats embrace Wolf’s vision for Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Feb. 4 – House Democratic leaders praised the 2020-21 budget proposal outlined today by Gov. Tom Wolf, saying it closely tracks the Democratic Caucus’ own policy agenda, the Plan For Pennsylvania.

“Governor Wolf is showing the way to make Pennsylvania a better place to live, learn and work,” said Democratic Leader Frank Dermody. “House Democrats are matching his vision with our plan for affordable health care, quality schools, good jobs, a safe and healthy environment, and justice for all people.”

Wolf’s budget proposal includes heavy investment in public schools and early childhood education, as well a new workforce initiative to prepare more workers for in-demand jobs. Wolf proposed a new scholarship program to help students in the State System of Higher Education avoid crushing student debt.

“This budget is a bold approach to fixing some of Pennsylvania’s most pressing issues, including reducing gun violence, increasing the minimum wage, ensuring our schools are safe places for our children to learn and addressing the rising cost of higher education,” said Democratic Whip Jordan Harris. “I’m especially glad to see Governor Wolf address the student debt crisis. Education is the elevator out of poverty and considering Pennsylvania’s students have the highest level of student loan debt in the nation, that elevator is essentially broken. The legislature must act to address this crisis and help Pennsylvanians prepare themselves for a successful future through higher education.”

“Our children deserve a high-quality public education regardless of where they grow up,” said Rep. Matt Bradford, the Democratic chairman of the Appropriations Committee. “Two budget initiatives presented by Governor Wolf today – investing an additional $30 million to fund high-quality pre-K and mandating free, full-day kindergarten – are commonsense steps to ensure kids receive the type of full-time learning environment they deserve during their formative years, which research shows us is vital for social skills, cognitive development and lifelong economic mobility.”

Wolf also highlighted his strong commitment to keeping Pennsylvanians safe with measures to protect vulnerable populations, and a renewed call for legislators to pass measures to reduce gun violence, including a “red flag” law and universal background checks on firearm purchasers.

“Too many people have fallen victim to gun violence, including deaths of children by accidental and random shootings,” said caucus Chairwoman Joanna McClinton. “No person should have to live in fear. We agree with the governor that by making some very simple yet effective changes to state law we can begin to build safer communities for everyone.”

“I am glad to see that the governor wants to continue investing in our future and make Pennsylvania a trauma-informed state,” said Policy Chairman Mike Sturla. “It is critical that we provide the proper support to Pennsylvanians affected by adverse childhood experiences that cause life-long challenges due to trauma.” 

Wolf repeated calls he made before for a higher state minimum wage, changes in how the Pennsylvania State Police is funded and the passage of a non-discrimination law to protect LGBTQ individuals.

“After more than 10 years without a raise for the lowest paid workers, it’s time to hike the minimum wage. The governor and House Democrats will keep pushing to get it done,” Dermody said.

Wolf also asked for more resources for the state’s two main environmental agencies and a concentrated effort to clean up lead and asbestos pollution. He asked lawmakers to enact a set of steps to increase safety and awareness around pipelines.

The Democratic leadership team said many of Wolf’s proposals reflect meetings he had with regional groups of legislators in November.

“It’s clear that the governor listened closely to his legislative partners and incorporated many of our ideas into this budget plan,” Dermody said.

House Democrats developed a detailed long-term policy agenda called the Plan For Pennsylvania, which the leaders said is very much in step with the budget brought forward today by Wolf.

Appropriations Committee hearings on the governor’s budget proposal will begin Feb. 18.