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Area lawmakers support proposed Pennsylvania budget plan

Local lawmakers gave passing marks to next year’s state budget approved by the General Assembly, noting that it represents a fiscally responsible spending plan.

“It worked,” state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said.

While not a perfect budget, it provides no tax increases and includes money for the state’s Rainy Day fund, Yaw noted.

He said he understood criticism from Democrats that perhaps more money could have been provided for programs to help those in need.

“I understand what they were talking about,” he said.

At the same, he said, he didn’t feel it prudent to fund programs that would require a continued stream of money.

Like all budgets, it is not a plan to everyone’s satisfaction.

“There were some things I hoped to get,” he said.

For example, Yaw said he would have liked to have seen more funding for Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Overall, he said he liked that the governor’s office provided a somewhat open discussion process regarding the budget.

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said a budget free of a tax hike and additional fees represents a major achievement.

It focuses on core government services, education and response to the ongoing pandemic, he said.

“In addition, we are depositing $2.5 billion into the Rainy Day Fund to ensure Pennsylvanians do not face similar hardships like many have in the past 16 months,” he said.

State Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Hepburn Township, said the budget represented a much more fiscally responsible spending plan than those of more recent years.

At the same time, it invested in education, roads and bridges, and nursing homes.

Hamm said he heard from constituents requesting more funding for education and nursing homes as well as infrastructure.

“When I look at this budget, it targeted many of the requests we heard out there,” he said.

Regarding criticism from Democrats that the budget fails to provide sufficiently for those in need, Hamm said the state simply could not afford to continue spending as it has in recent years.

“It’s time to be fiscally responsible,” he said. “Because of that, tough decisions were made. While it would have been easy to go on a spending spree, we chose to be more frugal.”

Hamm said lawmakers must be responsible with taxpayers’ money.

“Money doesn’t solve every problem we have,” he said.

State Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Wellsboro, said, “This budget protects our taxpayers and plans for the Commonwealth’s future. Thanks to one-time stimulus funding, we are seeing a healthy surplus in sales tax revenue, but we know it’s not going to last because our personal income tax collections are flat. People are spending their stimulus money but they are not earning, and we are facing a serious financial cliff as a result of that. We are doing the right thing by saving for the days when the stimulus and its effects come to an end.”

Owlett said there was no reason to spend a lot of the additional available revenues. Instead, the plan was to look at funding the “true needs” and saving the rest to protect against future tax hikes or service cuts.

He noted the increases in spending for education and funding for nursing homes and road and bridge projects.

“The huge income tax increases, energy taxes and higher overall spending the governor sought back in February were soundly rejected by the House, as were his plans to charge communities for using the state police and increasing the minimum wage. This is all good news for our taxpayers of today and the future,” he said.

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