Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) was critical of Gov. Josh Shapiro‘s 2024-25 budget proposal during a conversation on the KDKA Radio Morning Show on Thursday.
On yesterday’s “Big K Morning Show with Larry Richert and Marty Griffin,” Shapiro responded to Ward’s post-budget address statement saying his “multibillion-dollar budget proposal reflects an undisciplined strategy that lacks accountability. Shapiro’s spend plan is reckless in a ‘unicorns and rainbows’ way and would lead to significant tax increases for Pennsylvanians.”
The governor replied, “there’s some people in politics who knee-jerk have to be against everything. I get that but here’s the issue. She’s got real responsibility in this and it’s time to address these problems. Her caucus and those guys, they’ve been in charge for two decades. So I’m unwilling to accept those who just want to be critical and not put forth any concrete solutions.”
“It’s not that we don’t like some of his ideas,” Ward responded. “It’s that his numbers don’t add up on how we’re going to pay for them.
“According to the Independent Fiscal Office, by 2025-26 we have no reserves, and we have no rainy day fund. So, upfront, he wants to spend, spend, spend, spend. We have to pay for that. So maybe you won’t have any new taxes this year. But guess what? After this year, we’re going to have a lot of new taxes.”
Ward spoke about the assumptions that she and her caucus believe the governor is making so his budget projections hit the mark.
“We’re not saying all these ideas are bad,” she continued. “We’re saying ‘show us the money.’ Show us how you’re going to actually pay for it. This forecast (assumes) that recreational marijuana passes the legislature and we make a certain amount of money off of it. It is assuming that skill games are taxed at 42%. There are a lot of assumptions in his monetary forecasts on top of this spend down.”
The Senate leader brought up Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale reserves and how they power the Keystone State’s economy.
“Pennsylvania is sitting on reserves like no other place,” Ward said. “Our economy could go nuts and he could help because, right now, with regional green gas concentration, he is appealing a court decision saying a governor cannot unilaterally do that. It’s a carbon tax. Everybody’s utility rates are higher. We could stop that right now by pulling that appeal back. There were things he could do. We’re not saying he’s a bad guy. We’re saying he can’t pay for it.
“There’s room for all energy here,” she continued. “But to have a war on fossil fuels, the way the Democratic Party has done, is keeping and holding Pennsylvania back from being able to flourish like not other.”
Ward highlighted the IFC’s report that the state’s Rainy Day Fund will be empty by 2025-26 if all Shapiro’s proposals are adopted, but was cautious in stating that Republicans don’t want to do nothing.
“I’m saying that we can likely use some of that money but we can’t do this plan where uses all of it. We have a responsibility of Pennsylvanians and it’s not just to spend everything you want.”
She also addressed the education proposals, particularly highlighting the higher education pieces.
“I think that it’s a different kind of idea to combine the state schools and the community colleges. It would be a process. There needs to be something done.
“And I say I don’t like the plan where we say if you’re $70,000 or less family of four, then you pay $1,000 a semester. Because the guy making $72,000 with a family of four is going to be paying for that. I would prefer there be no income limits, no kind of class warfare and just put that money toward things that we need.”
Ward also noted that leaders “have not talked seriously” about legalizing marijuana, asking yet unanswered questions of control, production and distribution.
She commented that her relationship with Shapiro has “gone a little bit sour since last year,” but did offer the governor the opportunity to give his budget address in the Senate chamber.
“They chose the Rotunda,” she said. “It was a setting for a DNC audition. I think he’s running for a spot somewhere. He’s definitely angling for something nationally.”