Gov. Wolf’s 2022-23 budget proposes $4.5 billion spending increase 

In his final budget speech before the General Assembly on Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf looked back at how the state has recovered from the budget deficit it was in during his first budget address in 2015 and highlighted plans for a $43.7 billion budget that he says can leverage the state’s current surplus. 

Wolf’s budget looks to invest in job training and employee retention with a series of provisions including increasing the minimum wage, reducing the corporate net income tax, funding childcare options for state employees and more. 

It also includes a significant emphasis on pre-k through college education with $1.9 billion in allocated funds. 

“Over the past seven years, we’ve turned a $2-3 billion structural budget deficit into a $2-3 billion budget surplus. We’ve built our Rainy Day Fund to more than $2.8 billion—more than 12,000 times what it was when I took office,” Wolf said in his address on Tuesday. “We are no longer digging out of a hole. We’re ready to build. And this year’s budget does exactly that, by making new investments that will build a brighter future for Pennsylvania families.” 

The budget would increase spending by $4.5 billion and would come at the expense of Pennsylvania’s long-term financial security, according to a statement released by Senate Republican Leaders, who said the budget was less about Pennsylvania and more about Wolf’s legacy. 

“While this year’s revenues continue to outpace estimates, the long-term financial picture for the Commonwealth remains uncertain. The Governor’s revenue and spending projections over the next several years are unrealistic, do not align with traditional rates of growth and will make worse our existing structural imbalance,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne, R-Lehigh. 

The budget continues an effort by the Wolf Administration to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, which would increase to $12 per hour on July 1, 2022, with annual increases of $0.50 until reaching $15 in 2028. 

Wolf’s annual push for increases to the minimum wage has been met with scrutiny by business associations that say that a minimum wage would harm small businesses in rural regions and that the majority of Pennsylvania businesses have moved away from the state minimum of $7.25 an hour. 

“Governor Wolf again called for increasing the minimum wage to an eventual $15/hour. The median wage in Pennsylvania increased from $16.50 in 2020 to $17.00 in 2021. The market continues to move wages far beyond $7.25/hour, demonstrating little need for new government wage mandates,” the National Federation of Independent Businesses wrote in a statement on Tuesday. 

The budget also seeks to decrease the state’s corporate net income tax rate from 9.99% to 4.99% “as quickly as possible.” Pennsylvania’s historically high corporate net income tax has been pointed to as a harm to Pennsylvania’s competitiveness in the business sector and could drive additional business into the region if it were to fall. 

Funding for Pennsylvania’s businesses and workforce through the budget would also include $1.5 million for Industrial Resource Centers and $8 million for job training through the Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania. 

The $1.9 billion in educational funding pledged through the budget would be parsed across pre-k and through colleges with $70 million going to early education, $1.75 billion for general investments in K-12 schools and over $475 million for higher education. 

Regarding health care and long-term care funding, the budget sets aside $91.25 million to increase Medical Assistance rates for skilled nursing facility providers and $14 million for state veteran’s homes. 

Further investments include $50 million to increase the supplementary payment rates for personal care homes, a $36.6 million increase in county mental health base funds and a $14.3 million increase to the SNAP benefit for low-income older adults. 

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association, a statewide advocacy organization for long term care providers, said that the budget was “not enough.” 

“The Governor’s proposed Medicaid funding increase would be a critical step toward sustainability for long-term care – but it’s simply not enough,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the association. “At a time when nursing home providers are questioning their operational viability due to inflation and continued COVID-19 expenses, a workforce shortage has become a full-blown crisis, which has created bottlenecks in hospitals and access to care issues in long-term care facilities.” 

Belco Community, Wilmac Employees’ credit unions to merge

Two regional credit unions will be joining forces, with the merger expected to be finalized by April 30.

Harrisburg-based Belco Community Credit Union and York-based Wilmac Employees’ Credit Union received initial approval for the move in December from their respective boards.

Founded in 1976, Wilmac approached Belco’s leadership about the possibility of a merger, the result of the sale of Wilmac Corp. in late 2021, according to a release. The 500-plus-member credit union, which operates a location in York, has been serving Wilmac Corp. employees since it was formed.

Pending regulatory and membership approval, Wilmac members will have access to any of Belco’s 14 branches, as well as debit cards, online banking and ATM/ITMs.

Belco was established in 1939 for employees of Bell Telephone Co. in Harrisburg. It became a community-chartered credit union in 2005, opening membership to businesses and individuals who live, work, worship or attend school in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties. Today, Belco has 70,000 members and $797 million in assets.

“Providing current Wilmac CU members with the ability to continue their credit union experience is something we look forward to,” Amey Sgrignoli, Belco president and CEO, said in the release. “Wilmac CU is a unique credit union, with members across our seven counties.”

Tom Shugars, chairman of the board of Wilmac Employees’ Credit Union, added: “We are looking forward to working through this process with Belco and are confident our members will be satisfied with the expanded services Belco can provide. Credit unions were founded on the philosophy of cooperation and member ownership. Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to collaboration among cooperatives to benefit our members.”

Fulton Financial Corp. declares quarterly common and preferred dividends 

Lancaster-based financial holding company, Fulton Financial Corp., declared a quarterly cash dividend of 14 cents per share on its common stock, payable to shareholders on Jan. 14, 2022. 

Fulton’s Board of Directors also declared a quarterly dividend of $12.81 per share on its Fixed Rate Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series A, payable on Jan. 18. The share is equivalent to $0.32025 per depositary share. 

Fulton has more than 3,200 employees and operates more than 200 branches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Virginia through Fulton Bank. The financial holding company is worth $26 billion. 

RKL to merge with Chambersburg-based public accounting firm 

Lancaster-based advisory firm RKL will expand into Franklin and Adams counties following a newly announced merger with Chambersburg-based Rotz & Stonesifer P.C. 

The deal, announced Tuesday, will see Rotz & Stonesifer’s offices in Chambersburg, Greencastle, East Berlin and York, join under the RKL name. The merger brings the firm to 12 Pennsylvania locations. 

Rotz & Stonesifer’s certified public accountants provides wealth management, auditing, controllership, tax planning, payroll and more. The firm was founded in 1986. 

“Rotz & Stonesifer has built a respected legacy of expertise and excellence in South Central Pennsylvania, and we are proud to unite under the RKL banner to continue this success,” said Ed Monborne, RKL CEO. “This merger is an exciting opportunity to advance our firm’s strategic growth objectives and introduce RKL to new communities in South Central Pennsylvania and beyond.” 

More than 50 Rotz & Stonesifer employees, including four partners, will join RKL’s team of 500 employees. Joining RKL will provide the opportunity for Rotz & Stonesifer’s professionals and clients to benefit from the firm’s specialized services, innovative approach and entrepreneurial spirit, said Lynn Rotz, president, CEO and managing shareholder of Rotz & Stonesifer. 

“Together, we’re excited to invest in the trusted relationships developed over the past three decades and help even more organizations reach the next level,” said Rotz. 

Brown Schultz Sheridan & Fritz moves Lancaster office to New Holland Ave. 

Midstate CPA firm Brown Schultz Sheridan & Fritz has moved its Lancaster office to a new location at 454 New Holland Ave., Suite 101.

The firm’s Lancaster office, formerly located on Granite Run Drive in Lancaster, will retain its previous phone number, email addresses, social media accounts and website address, the firm wrote in a press release on Wednesday. 

“We are excited to relocate to a new location in Lancaster that is a more beneficial layout for our team members,” said Ken Wolfe, president and managing principal. “This move will allow us to continue helping our team members, our clients and our community achieve extraordinary outcomes in the Lancaster region.” 

Brown Schultz Sheridan & Fritz has offices in Camp Hill, Hanover and Lancaster PA and Frederick and Westminster, MD. 

The firm provides accounting, assurance, tax and consulting services throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.