Ted Kirsch: Wolf's budget reflects our priorities

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It's almost summer and the budget battle in Harrisburg is heating up.

The constitutional deadline for passing a budget in Pennsylvania is June 30. That means there's little time left to make sure that Gov. Wolf ’s historic investment in our schools, colleges and universities becomes a reality.
 
This is our budget. More than any time in the recent past, this budget reflects our priorities for education and paves the way to rebuild Pennsylvania’s middle class.
 
Gov. Wolf ’s budget makes begins to undo the damage from four years of cutting education funding and gutting vital programs.
 
The Republican-dominated legislature is holding the budget hostage to misguided pension and property tax reform and privatiza- tion of state wine and spirits stores.
 
What’s in it for your students and your schools? Gov. Wolf ’s plan:
• Restores Corbett-era budget cuts to public schools, higher educa- tion, healthcare and
other programs.
 
• Increases the number of children enrolled in preK programs by 75%, and eventually offering universal preK.
 
• Makes the first of two payments to restore funding to community colleges and state and state- related universities.
 
• Provides millions of families and older Pennsylvanians with property tax relief.
 
• Ensures corporations pay their fair share by closing the Delaware loophole, reducing corporate tax rates and imposing a 5 percent tax on the Marcellus shale drillers.
 
• Protects family-sustaining jobs by modernizing the state’s wine and spirits stores, which will generate up to $185 million in new profits dedicated to paying down the state’s pension debt.
 
Passage of the Democratic governor’s transformational budget is by no means assured. That’s where we come in – you, me and everyone who cares about public schools and rebuilding Pennsylvania’s middle class.
 
This month, we will ask you to advocate with lawmakers to pass the governor’s budget, which makes a down payment on the future we want for our children and Pennsylvania’s families.
 
We have a chance to chart a new course for Pennsylvania, but only if each of us is actively involved in advocating for the resources we need to make our students successful and against the unrelenting attacks on public education and workers’ rights.
 
I look forward to working with you to ensure that our voices are heard in our state Capitol.
 
In Unity,
Ted Kirsch, President, AFT Pennsylvania