HARRISBURG – Following the governor’s annual budget address Tuesday, Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-Dauphin) said he is looking forward to participating in his first state budget negotiation.
“Today, the governor outlined his vision and priorities for the next fiscal year,” Lewis said. “There are some good components to his plan, including increased investments in our schools and particularly career and technical education. But unless we do more to improve the state’s jobs climate, all we are doing is educating our kids to move out of state to find work.
“For Pennsylvania and our residents to thrive, we cannot continue on the path of big government and excessive spending,” Lewis continued. “Instead, we must focus on creating an economic climate that invites new businesses to build here and existing businesses to expand here. This will create more opportunities for family-sustaining jobs and careers for our residents and a broader tax base to support the core functions of our government such as education, transportation and public safety.”
The governor’s proposed General Fund budget would cost the Commonwealth’s taxpayers $34.15 billion, an increase of $928 million, or 2.8 percent, over the current year. However, the actual increase appears even higher when supplemental appropriations and fund transfers are considered.
“To help pay for his increased spending, the governor is anticipating more than $120 million in new revenue based on his proposal to increase the minimum wage to $12 starting July 1,” Lewis said. “While I appreciate his desire to ensure Pennsylvanians are earning a fair wage, I firmly believe he is going about it in the wrong way. Rather than artificially inflating wages, I go back to the need to build a better, more competitive jobs climate that will support real family-sustaining wages that far exceed even his increased minimum wage proposal.
“Artificial wage hikes lead to unintended – and highly undesirable – consequences, such as higher costs for all citizens and employers, as well as elimination of jobs,” he noted. “In fact, the state’s Independent Fiscal Office has already estimated 33,000 jobs will be lost if the governor’s dramatic minimum wage hike was implemented.”
In addition to increased spending, Lewis is also concerned about the governor’s separate plan to leverage a severance tax on natural gas drilling to borrow an estimated $4.5 billion for infrastructure projects in the state.
“The natural gas industry has created more than 300,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributes $45 billion to our economy, not to mention helping to lower gas and electric bills for consumers,” Lewis said. “In addition to the $1.7 billion generated in impact fees, natural gas companies have also paid an estimated $2.5 billion in other taxes over the last eight years. These employers are certainly paying their share in taxes.”
In fact, in 2017, the Commonwealth collected more than $209 million in impact fees, which is more than drilling tax revenue collected by the states of West Virginia, Ohio, Arkansas and Colorado combined – despite these four states combining to produce more natural gas than Pennsylvania. The IFO has estimated impact fees will increase to $247 million for 2018.
Despite his concerns with some of the governor’s policy initiatives, Lewis said he is looking forward to working with his fellow lawmakers and the Wolf administration in developing a budget that will work for the taxpayers of the 105th District and the entire Commonwealth.
“We are all here because we want to make our Commonwealth a better place for current and future generations,” Lewis said. “There will always be issues on which we disagree, but I am confident we can come together and build a budget that will set our state and our residents on the path to success.”
Representative Andrew Lewis
105th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler