Lawmakers from region address budget

“Wait and see” might be the operative phrase with Gov. Tom Wolf’s state budget address from Tuesday — at least as far as local lawmakers are concerned.

“It was interesting,” state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township said. “He didn’t say a lot. Primarily, he was talking about working together.”

Yaw said that message is a good sign from Wolf.

In prior annual budget addresses, the governor has pushed for new taxes and issued challenges.

“This was different,” Yaw said.

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, noted that Wolf called for no new tax increases, but using the growing economy to perhaps make new investments.

“When he was done, my first feeling was we are in a far better place than where we were in his last four budget addresses,” Wheeland said.

Yaw noted that Wolf did not mention a severance tax in his budget address, though the governor last week had renewed his pitch for it.

Wheeland said he remains concerned that spending will increase while the rainy day fund won’t remain at a healthy level.

He questioned Wolf’s call for an increase in education funding.

“I favor what we do with the Chamber and Penn Colllege, where you work with industry, find out what the needs are and program accordingly,” he said. “That is a true investment in education that will pay dividends.”

Yaw said he feels a funding increase for early education is worthwhile.

Asked about Wolf’s proposal to increase the pay floor for teachers to $45,000 a year, he said school districts in Lycoming County are probably close in line to that figure.

“There are a lot of fiscally responsible school districts,” Wheeland said. “I am more interested in satisfying needs of business and industry.”

Yaw noted Wolf’s call for giving more job opportunities to ex-prisoners.

“That has become kind of a hallmark of his adminstration,” he said. “I know people are saying there are people left out that shouldn’t be. He is right. One black mark can hurt people getting jobs. I think they deserve a break. I understand where he’s is coming from.”

Yaw said he’d like to have heard Wolf address the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.

Cleanup of local streams, he noted, can help the Chesapeake Bay and find support from residents of the area.

Wolf pushed for workforce development.

Among his proposals was $10 million in new funding for PAsmart to help fill more advanced manufacturing positions, help non-traditional students obtain training and create more jobs.

“The biggest thing I hear is we don’t have a trained workforce,” Yaw said. “He actually mentioned some of those things.”

State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, could not be reached for this story.