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Trib Editorial: New state budget features Wolf's 'greatest hits'

| Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, 1:09 p.m.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf

Several months late, Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers last fall sewed together a patchwork quilt of revenues, including $1.5 billion in borrowing, to balance the $32 billion spending plan passed by the Legislature back in June. On Tuesday, standing before a joint session of the General Assembly, Mr. Wolf proposed “a brighter future” for Pennsylvania premised on a spending plan that he says makes sense for Pennsylvanians.

Contained within his nearly $33 billion 2018 budget (about $990 million more than the current budget) are no sweeping initiatives, no income-tax boost to raise a political dust-up in an election year for Wolf, who's seeking his second term. What we have, instead, is “Tom Wolf's Greatest Hits.”

There's Wolf's call, again, for a severance tax on natural gas drillers, an oldie but a not-so-goodie, given what drillers already pay in impact fees — which, incidentally, are reportedly up a projected $46.1 million last year over 2016, primarily because of a higher statutory fee schedule.

There is also Wolf's renewed call for locales without their own police departments to pick up the cost of state police protection with a $25 per capita fee. Plus there are funding increases in education and child care.

“Sometimes, we've worked our way to compromise,” Wolf said. “Sometimes, I've been forced to move forward on my own.” Yes, and the previous results have been budgetary brinkmanship.

Can we expect a spending plan and revenue package that will meet the June 30 deadline? Even in an election year for governor and the General Assembly, we wouldn't bet on that yet.

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