The state legislature has begun holding hearings on Governor Tom Wolf’s $32.3 billion budget proposal.
Partisan battles are expected over how to contend with the commonwealth’s multi-billion dollar deficit, and the GOP majority is already making it clear that it doesn’t intend to agree to any of Wolf’s new revenues without a fight.
During a Q&A session with the commonwealth’s Independent Fiscal Office, Democratic Representative and Appropriations Committee Minority Chair Joseph Markosek noted that the budget process is already a far cry from years past.
“We are looking at a Republican-style budget proposal from a democratic governor,” he said.
Wolf’s plan lists about $2 billion in cuts and savings.
But nevertheless, House and Senate’s GOP lawmakers cite concerns about several of his proposals—including a potential increase to the minimum wage and tax expansions that would target large businesses.They’re also questioning whether those revenues would be as lucrative as Wolf says—specifically the wage hike, which would boost the state’s minimum to $12 per hour.
Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel said previous analyses suggest it could be, though much depends on the economy.
“Our findings suggested potentially an impact on general fund revenues between $10 and 40 million,” he said, referring to a study done on Wolf’s last wage hike proposal, which would have brought the minimum to $10.15.
“I would note though, that there is significant uncertainty with regards to that,” he added.
Republicans also raised concerns that not all Wolf’s proposed revenues are recurring—meaning they wouldn’t really help reduce the massive deficit.
The IFO reported that there are actually fewer one-time funds than in past years. However, Knittel noted there are some exceptions.
“There are temporary measures that are built in that would not address the structural deficit,” he said. “The revenue package—if it were enacted, that would be permanent. [But] there are still some temporary items, such as loans, that would not address the long-term structural deficit.”Budget hearings are slated to run over the next two weeks.