Governor Josh Shapiro presented his 2024-2025 budget proposal to the general assembly Tuesday.
He says he hopes the Commonwealth will prioritize economic opportunity, access to higher education, public education and law enforcement all without raising taxes and maintaining a surplus of $11 billion.
At the beginning of his address, Shapiro noted that Pennsylvania is the only state in the country with a divided legislature calling on both parties to compromise to get something done.
Shapiro called attention to Pennsylvania’s “rainy day fund” saying while it’s important to prepare for an emergency, ratings agencies have said there is too much money sitting in surpluses around the country instead of being driven out into communities. He said he wants to use that money as an investment.
Shapiro said that investment should begin in the classroom and lead to a life of opportunity and a retirement with dignity.
He referred to the 2023 Commonwealth Court decision that ruled Pennsylvania’s education funding unconstitutional. Shapiro said the new budget will give $1.1 billion increase in funding to schools, ensuring no school gets less than they did last year, and that the money is distributed in a more equitable manner. $900 million of that will be distributed through a new adequacy formula.
Shapiro also addressed an “elitist attitude” towards post-high school decisions he’s noticed in the Commonwealth. He said we should treat trade careers with the same level of respect as someone who chooses to go to college.
The budget calls for a $2.4 million increase in Career and Technical Education.
Another $2 million will go to help businesses transition to skills-based hiring practices to ensure those without college degrees aren’t overlooked and can still find family-sustaining jobs.
Shapiro announced plans to create a new “Career Connect” program that would create thousands of internships and connect employers with young people.
$2 million will build a digital location for career, education and training resources.
He also announced a three-part plan for higher education uniting Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools with Pennsylvania’s 15 community colleges. Shapiro said he hopes colleges will create pathways to get affordable credentials and degrees that meet the needs of the workforce. $975 million (a 15 percent increase) will go to this new system.
He plans to increase the Department of Labor and Industry’s investment in Industry Partnerships by $2.2 million to support workforce development and workforce needs of Pennsylvania’s workers and businesses.
$1.2 million will support labor law compliance to protect law-abiding businesses from unscrupulous competitors.
In terms of economic development, Shapiro created an economic development strategy that focuses on five sectors: agriculture, energy, life sciences, manufacturing and robotics and technology.
He proposed a $500 million bond to develop sites for plants to bring businesses to Pennsylvania. He says the added revenues from the companies will pay back the bond.
$20 million will go to large-scale innovation and leverage Pennsylvania’s research and development assets.
$3.5 million will go towards creating the Pennsylvania Regional Economic Competitiveness Challenge to provide different regions with the resources they need to plan and implement economic development strategies.
$25 million will establish a new Main Street Matters initiative, supporting small businesses and downtowns in PA.
Shapiro stressed the importance of agriculture to Pennsylvania’s economy and said he wants to help farmers take advantage of the latest equipment through Ag innovation funding and protect livestock with $5 million for state animal testing labs to prevent disease outbreaks.
The budget proposal invests $10.3 million in agriculture innovation to support and attract new agriculture businesses, including energy and conservation endeavors.
$5.6 million will reform the Dairy Margin Coverage Protections offered to dairy farmers and dedicate a new Dairy Development Specialist to advocate for and help promote the Pennsylvania dairy industry.
$125 million will go to infrastructure and Shapiro plans to continue to decouple state police funding with infrastructure funding. He says this will put both parties on stronger financial footing.
This budget proposes to decrease overall State Police reliance on the Motor License Fund to $250 million and further reduce the reliance on the Motor License Fund by $125 million annually until the support is eliminated in 2026-27.
The budget allocates $48.5 million for Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to maintain fleets and helicopters, train new cadets and combat gun violence.
Shapiro plans to increase spending on public transportation by $283 million. $161 million will go to SEPTA, bringing the total amount of state funding to $1 billion.
Under Shapiro’s proposal, new funding would be dedicated to support historically disadvantaged (small, diverse) businesses.
Shapiro also announced plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 and legalize marijuana. He says in both cases we’re losing out to neighboring states.
He said legalizing marijuana would bring in more than $250 million in annual revenue. He plans to expunge the records of those convicted for nonviolent possession of small amounts of marijuana and allocate $5 million in restorative justice initiatives from adult use cannabis proceeds.