During a Friday morning interview with KYW NewsRadio in Philadelphia, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced that he plans to propose new incentives for workers in education, public safety and public health in his first budget address.
He will propose a tax credit for Pennsylvanians who acquire a license or certification in front-line professions, including teachers, nurses and police officers, or for individuals in these fields who move to the Keystone State with Pennsylvania-recognized credentials.
They would be eligible for a refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 a year over three years.
“We’re facing a really critical workforce shortage across the Commonwealth,” Shapiro said in the interview. “One in 4 nursing jobs in Pennsylvania are unfilled. We’re short more than 1,200 municipal police officers. We’re seeing cramped classrooms because we don’t have enough teachers. If we don’t act now, these numbers are only going to get worse. Communities will suffer.”
According to the governor’s office, nearly 15,000 Pennsylvanians receive a license or certification in one of these fields every year.
Shapiro’s proposal, pending approval from the General Assembly, would invest $24.7 million in job recruitment efforts to attract — and retain — licensed workers certified in these careers.
“It’s going to help us put more teachers in classroom, nurses in the hospitals, police officers and troopers in our communities. I just fundamentally believe that no nurse should be compelled to work a double shift, no cop should be pressured to walk a beat alone and no kid should be crammed into an overstuffed classroom,” said the governor.
Shapiro’s proposal also comes on the heels of a landmark school funding ruling, as Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer found that the state hasn’t fulfilled its constitutional obligations to students in the poorest school districts, writing in a 786-page ruling that the state is violating those students’ rights to what should be a “comprehensive, effective, and contemporary” education.
“The disparity among school districts with high property values and incomes and school districts with low property values and incomes is not justified by any compelling government interest nor is it rationally related to any legitimate government objective.”
However, she did not direct the Legislature on how much aid to distribute, or how, or give a deadline.
Shapiro said, “the status quo is unacceptable. I’m pleased to see this ruling. The current way we fund our schools violates equal protection. It’s based on two things – one, there is not enough money being invested in our schools. Two, the formula (for distributing the funds) is inequitable. we have to address that.
“The remedy (from the court) was the governor, lawmakers, advocates need to get together and dialogue and fix this. We don’t have time to waste. You will see a downpayment on the progress we need to make. The bottom line is creating real opportunities for our children, I believe, begins in school.”
Shapiro also talked about the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, and its impact on Pennsylvania residents. “I believe (Norfolk Southern) are bad actors. They try and stop any regulation of their industry and don’t give a damn about those communities. They need to pay for the damage they created in western PA.
“I will compel Norfolk Southern to pay for all of this testing and for any remediation, should we see troubling readings. I’ll hold (them) accountable for commitments and to protect us well into the future. Norfolk Southern has to do better.”
When asked about the sexual harassment accusations made against state Rep. Mike Zabel (D-Delaware), Shapiro said the allegations were “very concerning” and added that Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) needs to properly investigate the charges and take action.
“People deserve to be safe and free from harassment wherever they work,” said Shapiro. “I think it’s critically important for those that come forward to share their truth and have it investigated fairly and properly.”
The governor also answered questions about his recent statement that he will not sign death warrants and wants to abolish the death penalty.