Governor Proposes $48.3 Billion Budget for Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro laid out his plans for this year's budget in a historic address this afternoon.
For the first time in Pennsylvania's history, the legislature gathered in the capitol rotunda for a joint session while the Governor spoke from the grand staircase.
He proposed a grand total of $48.3 billion for the general fund budget of 2024/25. Shapiro says the proposal, if enacted as is, would not require a tax increase and leaves $11 billion in Pennsylvania's surplus.
Pennsylvania currently has $14 billion in surplus- money left over from last year. The surplus stems mostly from COVID era funds and programs.
The proposal started with a $1.1 billion increase in the Basic Education Fund. Almost $900 million of that would go in a new adequacy investment fund. The distinction is a response to last years court ruling that said Pennsylvania school districts rely too much on property taxes.
Notably missing from the budget itself is any new funds for school choice programs, a priority for Republicans. Though Shapiro did mention the spending area as a topic the General Assembly would have to work out among themselves.
There were 21 main areas highlighted to receive funding increases. An investment in higher education comes with a restructuring of the current governing system of PASSHE and the State School System. It also adds in performance metrics to fund distribution.
The Governor's office announced in recent weeks a state wide economic development plan. That received significant investment in the budget; $500 million in bonds to increase the PA SITES program just one example.
$34 million is going to increase the wage rate for workers in the child care industry. Representative Bob Merski (D-2) and the organization Early Learning Pennsylvania say that number is a start, but not enough to address historic workforce shortages.
Other quick mentions were public transit receiving $280 million, $5 million to help with restorative justice initiatives if Cannabis is legalized, a push for $15 an hour minimum wage, $100 million in gun violence programs, and $3 million for schools to provide feminine hygiene products.
A full list of the Governor's budget proposal can be found by clicking here.
Republicans have criticized the plan for spending $2-$3 billion more than the state gets in revenue on initiatives that will require funding every year.
The Governor's budget office did confirm the proposal would decrease the surplus to around $100 million at the end of 5 years.
Shapiro says the spending is an investment into opportunities and the future.
"It is not a badge of honor nor is it to be something to be politically proud of for some lawmakers out there," said Shapiro, "to say 'I took more money from the good people of Pennsylvania than I needed, and then I bragged about how I just kept it in some bank account in the capitol."
Appropriations hearings will begin Tuesday, February 20.