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How Pa’s advocacy community reacted to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget plan | Wednesday Morning Coffee

From mental health and environmentalism to gun violence and charter schools, groups across the spectrum were listening to Gov. Tom Wolf’s final budget address — and they all had something to say

February 9, 2022 7:12 am

Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his final budget address to a joint session of the state House and Senate on Tuesday, 2/8/22 (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The legislative reaction to Gov. Tom Wolf’s eighth — and final — budget address on Tuesday morning broke down pretty much the way you might expect.

In short, Democrats praised it. Republicans punctured it. And this thorough story by Capital-Star Associate Editor Cassie Miller is your one-stop shop for legislative reaction across the parties and across the House and Senate.

But a wide array of interest groups, from gun-violence reduction advocates to charter school supporters also will be impacted by the $43.7 billion spending blueprint that Wolf rolled out, and that the Democratic administration and the Republican-controlled General Assembly will spend roughly the next three or four months arguing about.

With that in mind, below you’ll find a myriad of reaction from interest groups across the state.

(Image via Getty Images)

Bob Bertolette, CEO, LeadingAge PA., a nursing home trade group: “While we appreciate that Gov. [Tom] Wolf is proposing a $91.25 million increase in Medical Assistance nursing facility rates, it is disappointing that it is tied to the Administration’s misguided regulatory proposal to increase minimum staffing thresholds by 50%. These mandatory minimums are unattainable and ignore the current workforce challenges. Because this funding proposal is linked to staffing minimums, it does nothing to address historical and growing structural deficits caused by years of underfunding.

“Many have moved on from the pandemic, but nursing homes continue to be Ground Zero. Facilities have exhausted their Rainy Day Funds. Some have closed their doors and others have been sold to out-of-state corporations,” Bertolette continued. “LeadingAge PA members are committed to providing high-quality care, and our elected officials are expected to do the same by investing adequate funding in medical assistance rates for the care of our seniors. The future sustainability of senior services depends on it.”

Jacquelyn Bonomo, president and CEO of PennFuture, an environmental advocacy group: “Gov. [Tom] Wolf’s final state budget address was a look back at his tenure in office. For Pennsylvania’s sustainable economy and its countless communities beset by pollution, it’s been a daily grind, defined by increasingly vitriolic debate in Harrisburg around environmental protection and conservation.

“That’s why, after seven years, PennFuture is pleased to see important attention and substantial dollars in Gov. Wolf’s budget proposal devoted to clean water, nature-based economic sectors, and conservation agencies, all of which we have called for throughout Gov. Wolf’s term, including in our Green Stimulus report published in 2020,” Bonomo continued. “It is also encouraging that the governor proposed significantly increasing capacity at our environmental and conservation agencies to allocate federal infrastructure dollars for abandoned mine reclamation projects, plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, and installing electric vehicle infrastructure.

” … But like the last seven years, every time Pennsylvania takes important steps forward on the environment, it follows with a few steps back. We are frustrated that the governor’s plan includes funds to study using carbon capture and hydrogen technologies, both of which are not feasible options to realistically decarbonize our energy sector,” she concluded.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder:

“We applaud this budget’s commitment to bettering life for Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth by making Pennsylvania the best economy for workers,” Bloomingdale said. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 is critical to our future as a workforce. For too long, the legislature has stalled on this key issue, and it’s time for the General Assembly to act.”

Snyder added that Wolf’s proposed [investments] in “promoting and adequately funding public education, not charter or cyber schools, is crucial for the future of our children and the profession. The realities of the pandemic have underlined the desperate need for investment in the economy of care for our youth, elderly, and our most vulnerable.”

(Image via The Philadelphia Tribune)

Adam Garber, executive director, CeaseFire Pa., a gun violence reduction group: “For too many Pennsylvanians, gun violence has become part of daily life. Those same communities have the solutions to this crisis, from violence interrupters who intervene before shots are fired, to trauma-informed care that prevents retaliation,” Garber said. “These community violence prevention efforts have cut gun violence significantly elsewhere and can do the same in the Commonwealth — but only if they have enough resources.”

Dr. Jamie Martin, president, Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties: “This proposal will change the landscape at our universities for current and future State System university students. We applaud Gov. [Tom] Wolf for this much-needed investment in the future of the State System and the students it serves,” Martin said. “The increased appropriations funding, scholarships and other student-centered initiatives move the State System back toward its original mission of providing a high-quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students. Public higher education is supposed to be affordable. Not fulfilling this promise has devastating effects on our Commonwealth.”

(Image via pxHere.com)

Joint statement by the Education Law Center and Public Interest Law Center, public education advocacy groups involved in the school funding lawsuit now before Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court: “The school funding trial has exposed the unmet needs of students in Pennsylvania’s underfunded school districts and the urgent need for action to fix this failed system. Gov. [Tom] Wolf’s budget proposal provides a much-needed down payment that will fill part of the longstanding, growing gaps in resources that prevent so many students from achieving their potential and preparing for college and career success,” Education Law Center Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr said. “With a significant budget surplus, now is the time for the General Assembly to start putting our school funding system on the right track.”

“The governor’s budget proposal is a first step toward repairing a deeply flawed system that shortchanges students and leaves behind low-wealth school districts across the commonwealth,” Public Interest Law Center Legal Director Mimi McKenzie said. “But the unmet needs of our students have compounded over decades of insufficient state funding, distributed irrationally, and we need a sustained long-term solution.  The legislature should pass this proposal and get to work on a plan to address its constitutional obligation: ensuring that all Pennsylvania school districts and students have the resources they need for quality public education, regardless of local wealth.”

Bird and marsh grass along the Chesapeake Bay. (Image via the Virginia Office of Natural Resources).

Shannon Gority, Pennsylvania executive director, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation: Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to increase funding for the Department of Environmental ProtectionDepartment of Agriculture, and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is a positive step toward protecting and restoring water quality in Pennsylvania.

“Unfortunately, the commonwealth lags significantly behind in meeting its pollution reduction commitments and it remains unclear how the state will close the over $320 million annual shortfall in investments needed to achieve its Clean Water Blueprint,” Gority continued.

“With [Wolf’s] proposal to spend over $13 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the state would still retain nearly $3 billion in the Rainy Day Fund,” Gority concluded. “The state Legislature can make the choice to invest those federal dollars into the Agricultural Conservation Assistance ProgramClean Streams Fund, and Growing Greener. It is critical support for the many boots on the ground, landowners, and communities working hard every day to protect and restore local rivers and streams.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
We have you covered with a comprehensive package of coverage of Gov. Tom Wolf’s final budget address.

From Staff Reporters Marley Parish and Stephen Caruso: Here’s a comprehensive look at Wolf’s $43.7 billion spending plan, what’s in it, who will benefit, and how lawmakers reacted to it.

Associate Editor Cassie Miller rounds up the full legislative reaction from both sides of the Capitol.

In a column, I argue that Gov. Tom Wolf looked forward by looking back as he rolled out his valedictory spending plan, and consider what that means for the debate yet to come.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to spend up to $1 billion to foster the creation of climate-friendly agricultural and forestry products by offering grants to facilitate their production and the markets to sell them, Jared Strong, of our sibling site, the Iowa Capital Dispatch, reports.

The Philadelphia 76ers have honored a Philadelphia coffee shop owner for her ‘Buy Black‘ initiative, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: In a column for our sibling site, The Missouri Independent, author Janice Long argues that appointing a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court is not affirmative action. And experts from the University of Washington and Loyola University Chicago want you to keep an eye on these controversies that will roil education in 2022.

Senate Democrats deliver remarks after Gov. Tom Wolf’s final budget address on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (Screenshot)

Elsewhere.
Spotlight PA has its look at Gov. Tom Wolf’s final budget address (via the Inquirer).

The omicron variant has dropped ‘sharply’ in Allegheny County and statewide, the Post-Gazette reports.

Despite rules requiring it, most deaths in Pennsylvania jails have gone unreported, PennLive reports (subscribers-only).

LancasterOnline does a Q&A with John Trescot, Lancaster County’s new Democratic commissioner (subscribers-only).

The York Daily Record looks at Pennsylvania’s issues with teen incarceration (subscribers-only).

The Morning Call breaks down how much every Lehigh Valley school would receive under Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal.

The Times-Tribune also looks at education funding in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget.

Upper Darby, in Delaware County, narrowly ducked a government shutdown, amid a controversy over missing American Rescue Plan funds, WHYY-FM reports.

A detention center for migrant families in Berks County has reopened as women-only facility, WHYY-FM also reports.

New Erie County Executive Brenton Davis ended last year with about $500 in his campaign coffers and around $45,000 in debtGoErie reports.

Stateline.org explains why state leaders of both parties are cutting taxes.

A Republican state senator from Arizona has inserted herself into the Canadian trucker protests — for some reason. Talking Points Memo has the story.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
The House and Senate both come in at 11 a.m. today.
9 a.m., 523 Irvis: House State Government Committee
9 a.m., 140 Main Capitol: House Appropriations and Education committees10 a.m., Capitol Media Center: Welcoming PA Caucus discusses establishing the Office of New Pennsylvanians
10 a.m., Main Rotunda: Judicial Gerrymandering Event (unclear on whether this is pro or con)
10:30 a.m., G50 Irvis: House Transportation Committee
Call of the Chair, 140 Main Capitol: House Appropriations Committee
Call of the Chair, Senate Chamber: Senate Appropriations, Finance, Judiciary, Veterans Affairs/Emergency Preparedness,

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. John DiSanto
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Frank Ryan
8 a.m.: Breakfast for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a truly preposterous $8,500 today.

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf takes his budget plan on the road, as he heads to Erie for an 11 a.m. newser touting his education spending proposals.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning Pa. House candidate Ben Waxman, of Philadelphia, and to Teresa Bonner, of PennLive, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from Alice Merton for your Wednesday morning. It is the very rootsy and soulful ‘No Roots’.


Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Carolina rallied late, closing a 4-1 deficit, to come within a goal of beating Ottawa on Tuesday night, But the Senators still left the ice with a 4-3 win. The ‘Canes have dropped an uncharacteristic two in a row on a swing north of the border.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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