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The Latest: Wolf floats 2 new college benefits in budget

February 5, 2019
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Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address for the 2019-20 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Latest on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s $34.1 billion budget proposal (all times local):

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3:15 p.m.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s new $34.1 billion budget plan includes a couple new programs to help people go to college.

The Democrat on Tuesday asked lawmakers for $8 million to give grants to community college students who remain in Pennsylvania.

Eligible students could get a $2,500 grant to offset tuition or pay down student debt.

Meanwhile, Wolf wants members of the National Guard who re-enlist for six more years to get an added higher-education benefit.

The grants could also be used by spouses or children to attend an institution approved by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. The cost would be $2.7 million.

Wolf’s budget plan otherwise keeps higher education spending relatively flat, except for a $7 million increase, or 1.5 percent, for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

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2:30 p.m.

Embedded in Gov. Tom Wolf’s new $34.1 billion budget plan is a pledge to seek $15 million a year for five years to help Pennsylvania’s counties pay for new voting machines.

Wolf’s administration told counties Tuesday that he wants the state to pay $75 million over five years. Lawmakers will have to approve it.

Replacing voting machines ahead of 2020′s presidential election has been a priority for Wolf.

In April, Wolf told counties to switch to voting machines that leave a paper trail after federal authorities said Russian hackers targeted at least 21 states, including Pennsylvania, during the 2016 presidential election.

Voting machines that leave a voter-marked paper trail are viewed as more auditable and less susceptible to hacking.

The cost is estimated at $125 million. The federal government has already committed $14 million.

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1 p.m.

Leaders of Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature are reacting relatively warmly to Gov. Tom Wolf’s new budget proposal, while applauding its lack of a tax increase.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said after the Democratic governor’s Tuesday budget address that he was pleased with Wolf’s tone, message and direction.

House Speaker Mike Turzai called Wolf’s message productive, positive and pragmatic. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman says there’s parts of Wolf’s plans that Republicans can support, at least generically, including workforce development.

However, Scarnati’s warning that the state isn’t keeping up with its spending growth, even during good economic times.

He’s also calling for a reduction in the state’s corporate net income tax. Wolf wants to reduce it, too, but he wants to restructure how it’s calculated.

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11:30 a.m.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s new budget proposal requests hundreds of millions of dollars more for Pennsylvania’s schools, as well as a sprinkling of money for new voting machines and new programs to improve worker training and the agricultural sector.

The Democrat is also seeking new college benefits for members of the National Guard who re-enlist and tuition aid for community college students who remain in Pennsylvania.

Wolf released the $34.1 billion spending plan Tuesday to a joint session of the Republican-controlled Legislature. It’s his first since winning a second term, and is relatively modest compared to some earlier plans.

Wolf is seeking authorization for another $1.9 billion in new spending, or nearly 6 percent more. The higher spending would go toward public schools, pension obligations and social services.

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