Education and job training to be focus of PA budget address

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – In just a matter of hours, Governor Tom Wolf is expected to lay out his priorities for the 2018-2019 budget year.

Even though the governor’s budget won’t be released until 11:30 Tuesday we are already starting to get an idea of what of some of his proposals will be.

The governor is expected to call for increasing funding for public education at all levels Tuesday.

With this being an “election year budget,” experts say don’t expect any really controversial proposals.

Gary Drapek is the head of the United Way of Lackawanna & Wayne Counties.

Around the beginning of February, he always gets nervous about the state budget but this year seems a little different.

“Traditionally during an election year the budget coming out of Harrisburg, the best word I can use is bland, it tries to appease everyone,” Gary Drapek said.

In advance of Governor Tom Wolf’s budget address, we have learned the governor will push for increasing education funding by nearly $200 million.

A bulk of that proposed increase would be in basic education but there would also be increases in Pre-K, special education and career/technical training.

Also on the agenda is expected to be a natural gas severance tax once again.

That does not surprise Dr. Jean Harris with the University of Scranton.

“If you’re not going to increase sales tax or income tax, if you’re looking for new revenue marcellus shale makes sense,” Dr. Jean Harris of the University of Scranton said.

The governor’s office also announced Monday that Mr. Wolf is planning a $50 million, first-of-its-kind investment in job training with the launch of “PA Smart.”

The initiative would help train students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math and would focus on apprenticeships and partnerships.

The big question, of course, is how republican leaders who control the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate will react to the budget message and if all sides can come together to pass a budget on time.

“Election cycles, things usually change when there are big elections. Things do get done in a way they haven’t been!” Dr. Harris said.

“It always seems that the talks don’t take place until May of June right before the budget is due,” Drapek said. “Hopefully the powers-that-be can sit around the table earlier.”

The Pennsylvania budget is due by July 1 each year.

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