Gov. Josh Shapiro delivered his first budget address to a joint session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly on Tuesday, calling for investments to make Pennsylvania communities safer and healthier, create opportunity and build an economy that works for all, and ensure every child has access to a quality education.
“This budget is packed with commonsense solutions to the problems the people of Pennsylvania face every single day,” said Shapiro. “This budget lowers costs and cuts taxes for Pennsylvanians. It cuts red tape, speeds up permitting, and supports business. It strengthens our communities and makes them safer and more just. It protects our environment and invests in public health.
“And it starts the long process of making our education system more fair so that every child in this Commonwealth has a shot. The people of Pennsylvania have entrusted us with the responsibility to negotiate and come together. So instead of playing politics as usual, let’s show the people that we are up to this task.”
He opened his remarks with a tip of his cap to the historic elections of two women to lead the respective chambers of the General Assembly – Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) as Senate President Pro Tempore and Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) as Speaker of the House – as well as the election of the Commonwealth’s first Black Lieutenant Governor, Austin Davis.
“A moment ago, I introduced the three people seated behind me. Three history makers. Today, in this chamber, we are witnessing history for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – and we all share in that progress.
“But it’s also worth noting, that among these two distinguished women leaders – one is a Democrat and one is a Republican. And nothing get done unless a majority in her chamber – nodding to Ward – and in her chamber – acknowledging McClinton – agree.
“Together, we represent many Pennsylvanians who divided their vote. They cast their ballot for you, and for me. Through their votes, they asked us implicitly to come to the table, put aside the gimmicks or partisan litmus tests and deliver commonsense solutions to the very real problems that we are facing every day.”
He also shared what he referred to as the most important lesson he learned during his seven years in the state House, courtesy of former Speaker Sam Smith.
“In this building, the Speaker said, the three most important numbers are 102, 26, and one. It takes 102 House members, 26 Senators, and one Governor to accomplish anything. And as those numbers make clear, it requires a collective effort.”
Shapiro said that his budget for 2023-24 is built around a conservative revenue estimate to ensure that Pennsylvania is prepared to weather an economic storm should it come.
“Taken together, the General Fund Surplus and the savings in the Rainy Day Fund are the largest in the Commonwealth’s history. We’ve built our budget around a conservative revenue estimate – so conservative, in fact, that we’re using projections that are $3 billion lower over the next five years than the Independent Fiscal Office – a notoriously cautious group of economic forecasters.”
Shapiro’s budget is proposing an increase of $567.4 million for basic education funding, enabling school districts to have the resources they need to provide high-quality education for Pennsylvania’s youth. An additional $103.8 million is targeted for special education, while another $38.5 million is earmarked to continue to provide universal free breakfast for all Pennsylvania students, regardless of income.
Shapiro is calling for a 54 percent increase in the maximum rebate for seniors from $650 to $1,000, while also increasing the income cap for renters and homeowners to $45,000. “I want to tie that cap to increases in the cost of living – so that this Commonwealth never has to tell another senior “sorry, you’re out of luck” because their Social Security payment went up and we didn’t act,” he stated.
The 2023-24 proposed budget calls for the elimination of the state cell phone tax – specifically the gross receipts and the sales tax – saving Pennsylvanians $124 million every year.
Funding for Pennsylvania State Police
Shapiro wants to create the Public Safety and Protection Fund (PSP), a dedicated funding source for the Pennsylvania State Police, designed to eliminate the conflict between infrastructure funding and public safety that has been in place since 1984 with the adoption of the Motor License Fund. He hopes that the PSP will reduce the government’s reliance on gas taxes by $100 million per year for the next five years.
“Public defenders are champions of justice, ensuring every citizen receives the representation they are entitled to,” said Shapiro. “They do that work despite often being underpaid and under resourced.” The governor is calling for a $10 million investment in public defenders, noting that “Pennsylvania is one of only two states in the nation that provides zero state dollars for indigent defense. That’s not a list we want to be on.”
Shapiro’s budget calls for further investment of more than 50 percent in the Commonwealth’s Manufacturing Innovation Program that connects Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities with businesses to spur innovation. It also included $20 million for the creation of a new state program to supplement previous federal investments and provide sustainable support for historically disadvantaged businesses.
Building a Strong Workforce
As mentioned last week, Shapiro wants to invest $24.7 million in job retention and recruitment efforts for frontline personnel such as nurses, teachers and law enforcement. Anyone who earns a new license or certification in one of those fields – or for anyone already holding a license and deciding to return to Pennsylvania – would receive a refundable tax credit of $2,500 each year for the next three. He also called for a $66.7 million investment in chilcare services for low-income families.
- a $23.8 million investment in workforce training and apprenticeship programs
- a $36 million increase in resources for emergency medical services (EMS) and fire services.
- investing $16 million in SNAP to increase the minimum benefit by 52%.
- $500 million to increase the mental health support our students need and deserve in Pennsylvania schools