Gov. Josh Shapiro punched back at detractors and called on the Republican-controlled state Senate to return to Harrisburg and finalize a state spending plan.
Shapiro has been accused by GOP partisans of going back on his word on the agreed-upon $45.5 billion budget.
“I acknowledge the realities of a divided government,” he said at a press conference on Thursday. “For the first time in a dozen years, Democrats control one chamber and Republicans control the other. It’s a new dynamic in Harrisburg. And it’s unique compared to other states in a politically divided country. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with a full-time divided legislature. That means that one party can’t get done anything on their own.
“In the end, Senate Republicans did not close the deal with their House counterparts, rather than closing a deal that was within reach, with House Democrats.”
Republicans hold a 28-22 majority in the state Senate and sent the $45.5B plan to the House last week. The upper chamber had approved a plan to include $100 million for school vouchers (PASS Scholarships) that would let students use state funds to attend private and religious schools and believed that it had support from Shapiro.
“The Senate budget included PASS scholarships $100 million to help low income families in struggling school districts,” said the governor. “To empower parents, to put kids in the best positions for them to succeed. That was a proposal that I support. But House Democrats made clear that it would not pass their chamber, particularly with the Senate’s unwillingness to advance more of the houses’ priorities, who worked hard to develop a budget package that could win support of both chambers. But in the end, we could not reach final agreement between all three parties, which I made clear to the leaders of both chambers multiple times in private and in my public statements to all of you.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward wrote on Twitter she missed his predecessor “because as much as we disagreed on the issues, his word actually meant something.”
“In the end, Senate Republicans did not close the deal with their house counterparts rather than closing a deal that was within reach with House Democrats,” said Shapiro. “Instead, they chose to send the State House a budget that was not agreed upon by all three parties, which contains the $100 million for a program that the House was unwilling to advance at this time. Our Commonwealth, I believe, should not be plunged into a painful, protracted budget impasse over one provision of this budget while our communities wait for the help and resources that they need.
“They may not like how this process played out, but it’s the process that they put into effect because of their inability to close the deal with the House Democrats.”
The Senate does have another bullet in its chamber, as Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, as president of the Senate, cannot sign the budget bill if the body is not in session. And Ward has recessed the Senate until September 18.
Shapiro urged them to return to Harrisburg to sign off on the bill, and also to work with the House to pass legislation to direct how the money can be spent.
“I recognize this budget isn’t law yet. I will sign this budget,” he said. “The Senate sent it to my desk and should not delay getting the good people of Pennsylvania the help and the support they need. I hope the Senate will be responsible stewards of the public trust and return to Harrisburg to sign this bill to make it law.”