Senate Budget Hearings – Key Points

Department of Health

Planning for Future Emergencies

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne (R-16) stressed the need to plan for future public health emergencies and the importance of a strong economy to fund those efforts. He said the state must use the pandemic experience to assess the strength of Pennsylvania’s health infrastructure and its ability to meet the needs of citizens.

Collaborating on Emergency Response

Committee members stressed the need for the Wolf Administration to collaborate with elected lawmakers on pandemic response and other public health issues. Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Michele Brooks (R-50) told Acting Secretary Allison Beam the administration needs to work with the General Assembly not only on health funding, but on policy as well. Had that been done sooner, the senator said, the outcomes in responding to COVID-19 would have been better.

Budget Secretary/Governor’s Executive Office/Department of General Services

Crushing Impact of Governor Wolf’s Proposed Tax Hike

Under questioning from committee members, Budget Secretary Jen Swails confirmed that one-third of all Pennsylvania taxpayers, including many small business owners, would carry the full burden of the Governor’s proposed 46 percent increase in the personal income tax rate.

Senators cautioned that the increase, if imposed, would lead to job losses and business closures. The secretary said the administration is reviewing revenue projections to determine changes since the governor’s budget proposal was unveiled in February.

Getting Back to Work at the Capitol

Department of General Services Secretary Curtis Topper said July 5 is the target date for most state employees to return to working on-site. He said the COVID pandemic has significantly changed state government, particularly regarding the workforce as a substantial number of employees have worked remotely since last March.