Gov. Josh Shapiro made the rounds of morning radio shows to tout his 2024-25 budget that calls for increased spending from last year.
The governor spoke with KDKA (Pittsburgh) and WILK (Wilkes-Barre) morning shows on Wednesday.
When questioned about his proposal to legalize marijuana, Shapiro said he has “had a journey on this issue” and now it comes down to the state’s competitiveness.
“Every one of our neighboring states, New York and New Jersey legalized it. Ohio just voted to legalize it. We’re losing out on turn 50 million bucks a year in revenue that could go to anything from economic development, education, you name it.”
He noted that it will be important to have safeguards in place, but also recognizes that Pennsylvania made have its choice made for it.
“I think this is something we got to compete on,” he said. “I actually think we don’t even have a choice anymore given the way in which this is moving so quickly across our region across the country. And so I have moved on this issue. I’ve evolved on it. I’ve learned and I think if we do this, right, we’ve got safeguards in place. We’re focused on lifting up Pennsylvania businesses in the process, not these big national conglomerates. And we’re empowering people in local communities that I think some good can come from it.”
Shapiro’s proposal does not call for raising taxes and he claims it actually reduces them.
“It cuts in business taxes to help us be more competitive,” he said to WILK. “And we don’t need to raise taxes. Let me just kind of break this down a little. It can be really confusing. In Pennsylvania, we have a $14 billion surplus. That means we’ve taken $14 billion dollars more in then we’ve made.
“We’re now in a position where we can invest. If we make all of the investments I proposed in my budget, I realize we’re gonna have to give and take and compromise, but just for argument’s sake, if we make all of my investments in education and economic development and public safety, we’ll still have $11 billion left in a surplus at the end of that budget.”
Basic Education Funding
The governor was queried the Commonwealth Court decision on education funding and about his plan to close the $5.4 adequacy gap between the wealthiest and poorest school districts in the Commonwealth.
‘It’s really important to note that Republicans and Democrats alike were given the opportunity to appeal that ruling to basically say we disagree, and none of them did,” said Shapiro. “And so they all accepted the fact that we’ve got an unconstitutional system. And really what the court said was, you’ve got two challenges here. Number one, you need to put more money into the system, invest more in public education. And number two, you need to drive the dollars out more equitably meaning towards the districts that need it most right, that was the remedy.
“And so by virtue of not appealing, everybody accepted this responsibility. That they got to do this work. So I proposed the largest increase in public education funding ever in the history of Pennsylvania. A school district like Scranton, for example, that sees a 25% increase in their state share of education funding … this would set us on a path of success and opportunity for our young people. Give them a quality education. Allow them to fix up old crumbling buildings, have more money for mental health, continue free breakfast for our kids, and then give them that choice when they are reaching the point of graduation when they want to go into workforce where they want to go to college. And we want to make both opportunity paths for them.”
The Road Ahead
The governor also spoke to the budget hearings and negotiations in the upcoming days and weeks.
“Obviously I get it’s an election year,” he said. “Some of the Republicans just feel like they got to be against whatever I’m for because they need to do that for their politics. I get all that. I think the public gets that. But what the public also gets is that we’re 49th in the nation in higher ed. We have an unconstitutional K-12 education system. We’re getting our clocks cleaned on economic development from our neighbors like New York, New Jersey, Ohio.
“We got to compete and this is a budget that allows us to invest in education, safety, be more competitive, give tax cuts and still have $11 billion leftover in a surplus when all is said and done. I think folks understand now’s the time to invest.
“And so what I hope Republicans and Democrats will do is honestly look at these proposals I put forth. If they don’t like something, don’t make it just about politics, but put your own ideas forward. I’m not the only one who’s got good ideas. There’s other people with good ideas out there, Republicans know this. If you’ve got a better idea than I do, we’ll go with your idea. But the bottom line is, analysis can’t be used as an excuse for paralysis, which is what often times happens in our state capitol.
“Lagging other states we shouldn’t be okay with an unacceptable education system. Now’s the time to compete when I put forth my ideas. I look forward to hearing theirs.”