Members of the House Republican Caucus’ southwest delegation gathered in the state Capitol on Monday to outline their main priorities heading into the state’s 2022-23 budget cycle – with the economy, education, energy and health care topping the list.
With Gov. Tom Wolf set to give his final budget address on Tuesday, Republican lawmakers outlined a “New Day for PA” plan and said the state should prioritize “pro-growth” policies that reform the state’s tax laws and take advantage of the state’s natural gas deposits, among other policy goals.
State Rep. Natalie Mihalek, of Allegheny County, criticized policies sought by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration throughout his time in office and said his agenda has been made up of “repeated attempts to raise taxes on working families” and “job-killing cap and trade policies.”
Mihalek said state lawmakers should take the state in a different direction by making the commonwealth more business-friendly, prioritizing public safety and improving education.
“We know Pennsylvania is better. We know its potential. It is time to create a pro-growth environment where you can have a family-sustaining job in a safe neighborhood, with your kids receiving the best education available,” she said. “Instead of continuing to follow the governor down a path of failed policies, it is time to usher in a new day for PA.”
State Rep. Rob Mercuri, also of Allegheny County, noted that Pennsylvania lost a congressional seat in the most recent census because the state’s population growth is not keeping up with that of other states. Addressing the state’s economy is one way to reverse that trend, Mercuri said.
“We're a place that is losing population; we’re a place in decline. We have to start acknowledging that and it begins with our economic environment. It begins with the businesses that we can attract and retain in Pennsylvania,” he said.
Mihalek and her colleagues from the southwest delegation outlined a range of proposals that lawmakers should consider in the weeks and months to come, including:
- Lowering the state’s Corporate Net Income Tax rate
- Relaxing limits on net operating loss deductions
- Streamlining the state’s regulatory processes
- Developing a permitting and regulatory framework for carbon capture and storage
- Addressing nurse staffing shortages
- Directing more funds and resources to police and law enforcement
- Making sure schools and educational institutions train students for in-demand jobs
The New Day for PA proposal didn’t outline any specific funding for some of the priorities outlined by southwest Republicans, though Mihalek said they could serve as starting points as state budget negotiations take place over the coming months.
“These are some areas that we've identified that are unique to our region and we think that [these] policies moving forward can be very helpful,” Mihalek said.
Over the last few weeks, Democrats have also outlined their own agendas heading into the spring, with Wolf suggesting the state use $1.7 billion in COVID-19 dollars to help families struggling with increased living costs, direct funds to small businesses and provide property relief to homeowners and renters.
Senate Democrats offered their own $3.75 billion spending plan, which would direct billions in state and federal funds to schools.
A spokesperson for House Democrats declined to comment, while Wolf’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the House GOP’s “New Day For PA” plan.