What will Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro say in his second budget address?

Education, economic development and public transit funding are among proposals Shapiro has previewed

By: - February 5, 2024 2:51 pm

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks with reporters on Thursday, July 6, 2023 (Commonwealth Media Services).

In the weeks before Gov. Josh Shapiro’s second budget address on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Democrat who adopted “Get S**t Done” as his administration’s slogan previewed major education, economic and transportation goals for the next budget cycle.

But some unachieved goals of his first year in office are likely to make a second appearance in this year’s pitch to the General Assembly on his vision for the 2024-25 state budget. Raising the minimum wage and school vouchers are among the initiatives Shapiro has signaled he will revisit.

Shapiro unveiled a 10-year economic development strategy last week at the Bethlehem headquarters of OraSure, which became a Pennsylvania success story with the development of at-home saliva tests for HIV and coronavirus.

The Pennsylvania Economic Development Strategy will focus on five sectors: agriculture, energy, life sciences, manufacturing, and robotics and technology, and include several new initiatives. 

Shapiro said the plan will focus on five key goals: investing in economic growth to compete, continuing to make government work at the speed of business, opening doors of opportunity to all Pennsylvanians, innovating to win, and building vibrant and resilient regions.

The 2024-25 budget will include investments related to the strategy.

After campaigning in 2022 on improving access to public education and developing Pennsylvania’s workforce, Shapiro last month proposed sweeping reforms to the state university and community college system. 

With a goal of capping tuition for low and moderate income students at $1,000 per semester. Shapiro’s plan would unite the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s 10 state-owned universities at 15 community colleges under a new governance system. 

The higher education plan also would increase Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency grants for students attending private colleges and distribute state appropriations to state-related universities — the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State, Temple, and Lincoln universities — on a performance basis.

While Democratic lawmakers applauded the plan for increasing higher education opportunities for residents, Republican lawmakers said the plan was short on details and would continue to direct resources to institutions rather than students.

As the Philadelphia-area transit agency faces a shortfall that is expected to result in service cuts and fare increases, Shapiro said he would boost funding for mass transit by 1.75% in his 2024-25 budget and provide $1.5 billion in new funding over the next five years.

Shapiro said he has worked with local public transit leadership and elected officials to understand their needs. The proposal would include a “major investment” in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority that would avoid immediate cuts or fare increases and give the multi-county transit agency a more stable funding structure. 

The proposal again drew criticism from Republican lawmakers who suggested that all areas of the state should have a strong and reliable transportation network. Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) took a shot at Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, blaming his progressive criminal justice policies for crime that kept SEPTA ridership low since the end of pandemic closures. 

Shapiro generated a national buzz last budget season during a CNN interview by renewing his campaign commitment to private school tuition vouchers. A plan brokered with state Senate Republicans to include $100 million in the budget for the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success scholarship program failed to overcome Democratic opposition. 

But Shapiro has remained publicly supportive and aligned with Republicans and some Democrats on school choice programs. School vouchers remain a powerful bargaining chip for Shapiro as he hopes to advance other budget initiatives. 

Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour is another goal Shapiro is expected to renew after legislation passed in June in the state House but wasn’t considered in the Senate. 

“Let’s increase the minimum wage,” Shapiro posted Sunday on X.com, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.

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