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From our editorial board members: Reactions to Gov. Wolf's address

| Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, 4:15 p.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf gives his budget address at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. (AP Photo | Chris Knight)
Gov. Tom Wolf gives his budget address at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. (AP Photo | Chris Knight)
Eric Elia Bononi
Eric Elia Bononi
Phyllis Framel
Phyllis Framel
Reed Pederson
Reed Pederson
Vince Mercuri
Vince Mercuri
Anna Morcheid Joyner
Anna Morcheid Joyner

Gov. Tom Wolf's address to a joint session of the General Assembly Tuesday drew mixed reactions from pundits statewide and from our own community members of the Westmoreland and Valley News Dispatch editorial boards. Here are their responses to the governor's remarks and his 2018 proposed budget:

In listening to Gov. Wolf's address, the one item that struck me is his quote that Pennsylvania is a better place to do business because of the tax structure.

Overall Pennsylvania is in the top 15 states of the country with the highest tax burdens when you look at the overall tax structure. Our personal tax burden may be in the bottom 10 states, but you also need to look at our gas tax, which is in the top 10 states; our sales tax and real-estate taxes are in the top 15 states; our beer tax is one of the lowest in the country; our cigarette and liquor taxes are in the top 15 states; our spending per pupil and teacher pay are in the top 15 states; our higher education is in the bottom of the states; our police and roads spending is in the top 20 of the states.

With all these other tax burdens, is Pennsylvania's burden on its businesses and individual families mild or steep?

— Eric Elia Bononi

Westmoreland Tribune-Review Editorial Board

I thought the governor's speech was very reasonable and forward-looking. I like the emphasis on education at all levels and especially the need for a severance tax. I've never understood why Pennsylvania allows out-of-state industries and businesses to take our natural resources (that can only be found here) and pollute our environment without paying the state for it. Seems rather shortsighted, given that we're still cleaning up the mess from the last industrial age.

— Phyllis Framel

Valley News Dispatch Editorial Board

We need more “investment.” Translation: We need more money. It's like a broken record. Never a thought about spending less. Despite the governor's streamlining government and reducing costs, we always see an increase in the budget; just once can we see it not increase? Another plea for a severance tax — sure, only if a law is passed that reduces our state income taxes dollar for dollar with severance tax dollars.

— Reed Pederson

Westmoreland Tribune-Review Editorial Board

I read through the text of the governor's address a couple times. It sounds more like a campaign speech than a budget, long on past successes and short on specific details. It did not address the billions of dollars of state deficit. In fact, he is increasing spending — not a good recipe for fiscal responsibility.

— Vince Mercuri

Valley News Dispatch Editorial Board

As a mother to two school-aged boys, investing in our schools is of the utmost importance. However, Western Pennsylvania houses a good portion of the worst districts in the state. Which makes me question if investing money really equates to better performance. With an astronomical amount of student debt, brought on by my chosen (or lack thereof at the beginning) profession, I was pleased to hear Gov. Wolf push for an increase in Pennsylvania's trade and apprenticeship programs. I was also pleased to hear Wolf address the opioid epidemic. However, arming law enforcement with “the tools they need” is just the tip of the iceberg: You save lives and then allow them to go right back to it, creating a habitual cycle that is draining the already limited funds.

All in all I was pleased to hear of no new tax increases and trimming government officials, pensions and pay.

— Anna Morcheid Joyner

Westmoreland Tribune-Review Editorial Board

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