Philadelphia Delegation lauds Wolf’s 2020-21 state budget proposal

HARRISBURG, Feb. 4 – The House Democratic Philadelphia Delegation today lauded Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2020-21 budget proposal for including many of the priorities they identified as important to improving the quality of life for Philadelphians and for people across Pennsylvania, according to Delegation Chairman Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila. 

Wolf outlined his proposal before a joint session of the General Assembly this morning. Led by Dawkins, members of the Philadelphia Delegation met with the governor earlier in the year to stress their budget priorities, including state funding to rid Philadelphia schools of toxins and fix crumbling infrastructure; funding to reduce waiting lists and provide more support for seniors, people living in poverty and those with disabilities; raising the minimum wage to a living wage; creating good jobs with an education plan to provide the skills to fill them; and addressing poverty and gun violence as a public health crisis. 

“The Philadelphia Delegation is grateful for Governor Wolf’s vision for the state in this, his sixth budget plan,” Dawkins said. “His proposals are people-focused and seek to provide more opportunities for everyone, not just the privileged few. We will be a loud voice in making sure they are included this year.”   

Dawkins said the governor’s budget proposal includes $1.1 billion to ensure students, teachers and staff can learn and work in classrooms that aren’t detrimental to their health, as well as fund lead remediation projects throughout the state. Another $14 million would go specifically toward funding remediation projects where children have been exposed to high levels of lead, along with $90 million to address lead in drinking water and $1.7 million to implement lead testing in schools and childcare programs.

Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, secretary of the Philadelphia Delegation, said she and delegation members will closely follow negotiations on Wolf’s plan to prioritize funding to help schools get rid of toxins.

“Every single Pennsylvania student and educator deserves a safe and healthy environment in which to learn and work,” Fiedler said. “We will not rest until this money is a reality and our school buildings are safe. I congratulate every student, parent, educator, school administrator, education advocate and lawmaker who joined the rally I hosted in the Capitol Rotunda in December. Their voices were heard by the governor, loud and clear. I am trusting that the leaders who will negotiate this budget in the coming months will hear them too.”

Wolf’s budget also calls on the General Assembly to pass legislation to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour this year with a path to $15 per hour.

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, vice chairman of the Philadelphia Delegation, said he is happy to see human services funding and dignity for low-wage workers being bolstered in the proposal.

“Every budget must be judged by its impact on the most vulnerable among us. It is immoral to force families to continue living in the vicious cycle of poverty by permitting substandard wages and fewer supports when people are at their lowest and most in need,” Kenyatta said. “After seeing the $200 General Assistance stipend that helped veterans, domestic violence survivors and people in active drug treatment who are trying to get back on their feet stripped from last year’s budget, I am happy to see that the governor’s proposal is making room for vulnerable people in need. His plan to direct millions more in funding to programs that help Pennsylvanians move off waiting lists and to backfill federal funding cuts to human services is welcome news. And a raise in the minimum wage is long overdue. Eradicating poverty is the foundation of our delegation’s platform and the moral issue of our generation. Finally, I was proud that Governor Wolf reaffirmed his commitment to making Pennsylvania a place where equality and dignity are a right for all people. I look forward to engaging in meaningful conversations as we move forward.”  

Alongside the delegation, Wolf also pleaded with lawmakers from across the state to take seriously the issue of gun violence and pass legislation to provide for background checks for all gun purchases, a red flag law, reporting lost and stolen guns, safe storage practices and banning ghost guns. His budget also directs $6 million in funding for gun violence prevention and $4 million for the Gun Violence Task Force he announced last summer. 

“Just when we think gun violence can’t get any worse in this country, it does,” Dawkins said. “The Philadelphia Delegation stands with Governor Wolf in the call to end violence, especially gun violence, in our communities. Coupled with the significant funding he’s proposing to address gun violence across the state, the sensible gun safety legislation he outlined and that is introduced and ready for a vote can make a real difference in reducing gun violence and violence of all kinds in Pennsylvania.”     

Dawkins said the delegation also would like to see all state basic and special education funding driven through the state’s fair funding formula, rather than just new dollars. He said Philadelphia children are not being served by the status quo and the members of his delegation will be working to make sure that point is heard throughout budget negotiations.

House Appropriations Committee budget hearings start on Feb. 18. Philadelphia Reps. Maria Donatucci (committee Democratic secretary and subcommittee chair of economic impact and infrastructure), Donna Bullock (subcommittee chair on criminal justice), Stephen Kinsey (subcommittee chair on education), Morgan Cephas and Fiedler all sit on the Appropriations Committee.