HARRISBURG – The Senate Appropriations Committee examined the budgets and operations of the Department of Labor and Industry and Department of Agriculture in Tuesday’s hearings on the proposed 2023-24 state budget.
Gov. Josh Shapiro’s $45.8 billion plan seeks to boost state spending by more than $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget. Senate Republicans are reviewing the budget with an eye toward upholding the principles of protecting jobs, empowering families and defending freedoms.
Department of Labor and Industry
The governor’s budget proposes a $9.2 million, or 11.4%, increase over last year’s appropriation. Questions for acting Secretary Nancy Walker focused on the potential for major job losses if Pennsylvania enters the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Processing unemployment compensation claims and preventing UC system fraud were also leading topics.
- Questions were raised about the number and type of jobs that are currently paying the minimum wage, since almost all Pennsylvania employers pay well above that rate.
- Even as Pennsylvania emerges from the pandemic, persistent concerns remain about Unemployment Compensation claims processing and customer service.
- Department officials were also questioned about how better staffing, training and support could help improve services to UC claimants in CareerLink centers.
- Previous security failures resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands – or possibly millions – of dollars in UC fraud.
- Improving apprenticeship retention rates and streamlining apprenticeship program approval were suggested as potential ways to support family-sustaining jobs in Pennsylvania.
Department of Agriculture
The governor’s budget proposal includes an additional $7.3 million, or 18.7%, for Department of Agriculture General Government operations. Pennsylvania’s $132.5 billion agriculture industry is a major economic driver across the commonwealth.
- The Norfolk Southern train derailment impacted many residents at Pennsylvania’s border with Ohio, including farmers. Testing of livestock and crops will continue following that incident.
- Containing the spread of avian influenza and helping affected farmers is an important job for the Department of Agriculture. Senators questioned what impact a proposed cut in the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission would have on the state’s ability to respond to concerns, including Chronic Wasting Disease.
- Pennsylvania farmland is being targeted by projects to produce energy for states that made poor energy choices. Pennsylvania taxpayers paid for farmland preservation which is being threatened by short-sighted energy policy in neighboring states.
You can find the hearings schedule, livestreams, daily recaps and video from prior hearings at PASenateGOP.com.
CONTACT: Jason Thompson