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Williams: Why I Voted for an Imperfect Budget

Williams: Why I Voted for an Imperfect Budget
By: State Representative Dan Williams, 74th District, D-Chester

When running for office, I promised to serve the public with honesty and integrity. This was not just campaign rhetoric. I take that commitment seriously. This was my first time voting on Pennsylvania’s budget and it required a difficult decision. Admittedly, this budget is riddled with missed opportunities, but there are also positive aspects that benefit residents throughout the commonwealth. It was important to consider both.

One missed opportunity is raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage. Everyone deserves to earn a living wage as soon as possible, and it can be done through stand-alone legislation. That is why I signed on early to House Bill 1215 – legislation that would immediately raise the minimum wage to $12/hour, provide gradual yearly increases to $15/hour, and further link automatic increases to the regional Consumer Price Index. This is an effective and sensible measure to aid hardworking Pennsylvanians and assist them in averting the grasp of poverty. I agree we need to do more and I’m proud to support this measure.

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Some have claimed they couldn’t vote for this budget because it didn’t include funding for the General Assistance Program. In 2012, then-Gov. Corbett dismantled this program, which helped residents in extreme need (people with long-term disabilities, fleeing domestic abuse victims, and veterans injured during service) afford the bare necessities like toiletries and transportation. Governor Wolf kept the program afloat with discretionary funding. I enthusiastically voted to preserve the General Assistance program in an earlier bill prior to the budget debate, but the Republican majority terminated it. This left the Democratic minority with little recourse.

I now had my commitment of honesty and integrity to fulfill. My promise was to lead and not be led, to rise above “politics as usual” and realistically attain what I could for constituents of the 74th district. This budget is by no means perfect, but it was an opportunity to provide over $300 million in new education funding that school districts like Coatesville, Downingtown and Octorara vitally need. When my constituents beg for my help in combatting rising property taxes that force them out of their lifelong homes, I simply can’t ignore that.

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My vote on this year’s budget was indeed difficult, but I will continue to fight for the issues that were neglected, such as raising the minimum wage, helping our most vulnerable residents, and preserving our environment. Legislation, advocacy and activism will be needed. While this spending plan is far from perfect, I will not abandon the promises I made, honesty and integrity among them. Passing this budget is not the end, but the start of a process to serve my constituents well.

Respectfully submitted,

State Representative Dan Williams, 74th District

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