HARRISBURG — Senator Elder Vogel Jr. (R-47) issued the following statement today in response to the Senate’s passage of legislation to restore approximately $6 billion in funding for education, agriculture, and hospitals that Governor Wolf eliminated from the state budget in December:
“Today, I voted for and the Legislature restored the $6.05 billion in funding that was vetoed by Governor Wolf back in December. If Governor Wolf signs it into law, our public schools will remain open, the 1,000+ folks that work for Penn State Extension will not be laid off, and we can finally move past this ugly situation and do the work that Pennsylvanians expect from their government.
In July of 2015, the Legislature sent Governor Wolf a balanced budget that increased education funding without tax increases; Governor Wolf vetoed that budget entirely. In December of 2015, Democrats and Republicans came together to prevent schools from closing by passing a bipartisan budget agreement. Governor Wolf cut roughly 55% of basic education funding from that agreement, knowing all too well that schools would, once again, be in danger of closing before the school year ended. Unsurprisingly, schools across Pennsylvania are now in danger of shutting down because of the Governor’s veto.
Governor Wolf also cut the Agriculture budget by over 58% back when we passed that bipartisan budget. This endangered funding for the Penn State Extension, 4-H, food safety research, avian influenza research, just to name a few. We are now weeks away from lay-off notices being sent out to over a thousand folks working for Penn State Extension, children being told that 4-H is no longer available to them, and putting the future of the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania in jeopardy. Once again, Governor Wolf is using the livelihood and safety of tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians for political leverage. “Leverage for what?” you may ask. Only Governor Wolf can answer that question. Regardless of his answer, I find it unconscionable.
The budget we passed today restores the nearly $3.2 billion Governor Wolf cut from basic education funding, compensates schools for interest payments on loans taken out to remain open, and provides a mechanism to reimburse schools owed millions of dollars in construction project costs (PlanCon). In fact, this budget increases basic education funding to the highest amount in the history of Pennsylvania: $200 million more than our last full budget.
The budget we passed today restores the $60 million that was cut from Agriculture in December and ensures that the work of Penn State Extension continues, that 4-H will be available to kids across Pennsylvania, that farmers and those working in agriculture will have the tools and know-how available to them to feed Pennsylvania.
I urge Governor Wolf to put the welfare of Pennsylvanians first, end this manufactured crisis, and complete the 2015-16 budget so that we can move on from this prolonged, painful debate and work together moving forward.”