(HARRISBURG) – Today, Gov. Josh Shapiro delivered his first budget address, proposing a $45.7 billion state spending plan for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. That would increase General Fund spending by more than $1.3 billion from the current fiscal year’s approved budget, according to Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20).
“During today’s budget address, Governor Shapiro identified several priority issues that are important to residents of the 20th Senatorial District – helping individuals and families keep more of their hard-earned money, creating workforce development and job opportunities, ensuring safe communities, expanding rural access to health care and mental health services, investing in roads and bridges, high speed internet, and other infrastructure improvements.
“These are issues that also align with initiatives I am pushing ensuring seniors continue to qualify for much-needed state support like the Property Tax Rent Rebate Program and expanding community and school based behavioral health services.
“Recently passed legislation to reduce and cap the transportation funding directed to the state police must be part of the final budget. It is impossible to realize our regional potential for growth without tackling the lengthy list of transportation repairs and replacements, dictated by community safety needs and hopes for economic expansion. This step frees up dollars to help meet these project needs.
“Governor Shapiro’s focus on indigent defense, probation and parole, and other criminal justice reforms was of particular interest, as these are issues the Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced. His continued commitment to additional state park funding was also encouraging, following our success in establishing the new Vosberg Neck State Park last year.
“The first budget proposed by a new governor is a unique exercise because he must work off his predecessor’s blueprint two-thirds of the way through the fiscal year. Nevertheless, he aims to put his stamp on it as much as possible.
“Thus, the numbers recommended should be seen as merely placeholders. Our annual budget hearings take on added importance as we must discover the depth and direction beneath the numbers. There is no track record yet by which we can measure performance and accountability. We must find out which broad ideas have an affordable and workable plan beneath them.
“Pennsylvania’s finances are in good shape at the moment, but expert analyses indicate trouble in the years ahead if there is overspending and not enough attention paid to economic growth.
“Inflation is still running too high and hurting too many Pennsylvania families. We cannot approve a state spending number that will fuel further inflation or draw heavily against our Rainy Day Fund.
“Education funding, which is the first number most people look at, illustrates the point about responsible spending. Pennsylvania is under court order to revamp its education funding system. That involves much more than simply adding substantial money and tinkering with its distribution. There are serious issues of policies, mandates, and practices that must be addressed to make any education reform package effective.
“Where federal pandemic funding is ending, we have to take a close look at where hardships will result and determine whether adding some state dollars might be necessary. However, everyone should realize this money was never meant to be permanent. It is unrealistic to expect the state to simply fill the gap. Taxpayers appreciate that Pennsylvania operates under a balanced budget requirement.”