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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Delivers Post-Budget Address in Allentown

By Colin McEvoy on February 8, 2017

Gov. Tom Wolf delivered a post-budget address to a crowd of more than 100 people at the Carpenters Training Center in Allentown.

Gov. Tom Wolf delivered a post-budget address to a crowd of more than 100 people at the Carpenters Training Center in Allentown.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf chose the Lehigh Valley for his first visit since unveiling a budget proposal that seeks to tackle a $3 billion deficit without raising taxes or cutting major services, while still investing in education, human services, and job creation programs.

“Basically what I’m trying to do is balance our budget, live within our means, not raise taxes, and continue to do the things that matter to all of us: invest in education, invest in creating jobs, invest in the things that make people like you want to come here and learn what you’re learning,” Wolf told a crowd of more than 100 at the Carpenters Training Center in Allentown.

That remark was directed toward students from the center’s apprentice class, which Wolf attended and observed before making his post-budget address. The four-year apprentice program will include 80 to 100 students in the construction industry when fully operational.

“My budget has an increase in things that matter to everybody here today, and that is creating jobs and helping you create jobs,” Wolf said. “… This is really amazing what you’re doing here, because you leave here with a good, family-sustaining job, and everything we do at the state should be targeted toward making sure everybody is getting opportunities like that.”

Gov. Tom Wolf speaking at the Carpenters Training Center in Allentown.

Gov. Tom Wolf speaking at the Carpenters Training Center in Allentown.

The governor’s budget proposal includes an initiative to support manufacturing that he said links job training to career pathways, ensuring that training leads not simply to any job, but to careers that provide higher pay and opportunities for advancement.

Wolf said the 2017-18 budget continues to invest in 21st century manufacturing, workforce development and training programs while also implementing new safeguards to ensure taxpayer dollars for economic development projects are spent appropriately and intended outcomes are met.

Among Wolf’s job creation proposals are partnering with the commonwealth’s research universities and Industrial Resource Centers to accelerate manufacturing technology advancement and adoption, foster manufacturing innovation and commercialization, and build a 21st century workforce.

He also proposes creating a new apprenticeship grant program to ensure workers can receive training aligned to business workforce needs, funded with revenue recovered from companies that fail to live up to previous commitments made when they received state assistance.

The budget proposals also calls for investing $5 million in a manufacturing training-to-career grant program to partner with technical programs and community colleges to develop new training programs that align with their workforce needs.

It would also seek to raise Pennsylvania’s “rainy day fund” from $245,000 to $500 million. That fund was once $1.5 billion under Gov. Ed Rendell, Wolf said.

Dennis Davin, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, also joined Wolf for his post-budget address. They were introduced by Kevin Lott, former president of the Lehigh Valley carpenters union, Local 167 of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.

“It’s an honor to host Governor Wolf at our new training facility where we will be training the next generation for family-sustaining wages in the construction industry,” Lott said. “The Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Training Program allows carpenter apprentices to earn wages and benefits that enable them to provide for themselves and their families, while learning from the most-experienced professionals both in the classroom and on-site. We appreciate Governor Wolf’s commitment to supporting the middle-class.”

Wolf’s budget proposal bolsters education funding by $209 million, expands efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and supports programs for seniors and individuals with disabilities. He said the $2 billion in cuts and savings rely on reforming government, eliminating waste and modernizing and improving state services for customers by getting rid of red tape and bureaucracy, not but cutting important programs.

“I’m offering a budget proposal that represents a responsible solution to our deficit challenge, and a different approach from the way things have been done in Harrisburg for almost a generation,” Wolf said.

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