Over the last three budgets, Gov. Wolf has adopted the themes of “schools that teach, jobs that pay and government that works.” Though not using those exact phrases today, in his fourth budget address, Wolf proposed a $32.9 billion budget with those three tenets woven throughout.
Governor Wolf began expanding his “jobs that pay” pillar by establishing a Middle-Class Task Force, comprised of experts in the public, private and non-profit sectors. The Task Force focused on future policy recommendations to confront current and future workforce challenges. Key themes that emerged from discussions included “the importance of making students and workers of all ages career-ready, strengthening meaningful business investment and employment opportunities, and ensuring community support.”
The 2018-19 proposed budget expands on the task force’s findings by providing a host of funding for STEM learning, including:
- $25 million to grow STEM and computer science-related education in K-12 and postsecondary programs;
- $15 million for greater access to STEM and computer science-related education and training for all students;
- $5 million to expand STEM and computer science-related educator and staff development; and
- $5 million for expanded postsecondary STEM computer science and related training programs.
In addition, the Governor proposed an additional $7 million in apprenticeship and work-based learning initiatives and $3 million to support industry partnerships. The budget provides for a $5 million increase for the PA First program, which facilitates private capital investment, job creation and retention, and workforce development. The increase is expected to “create 3,800 jobs, retain 14,000 jobs and leverage more than $650 million in private sector investment”.
Lastly, Governor Wolf expressed his hope that the legislature would consider increasing the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour.