It’s all budget appropriations hearings in PA right now

March 1 – After Governor Josh Shapiro unveiled his dreams for the 2024-25 fiscal budget, the lawmakers are now in the process of hammering out the details. 

Maybe hammering away the details is a better way to say it. 

The proposed budget, which was officially presented on February 6, totals $48.3 billion in spending and is a 7.5% increase over last year.  

It also includes a 6% raise for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, as well as reducing tuition to $1,000 a semester. 

Legalizing recreational marijuana also made the list. 

There was also $100 million for the Gun Crimes Prevention Commission. 

PA Representative Paul Schemel said, “There wasn’t any detail with that when he rolled out his budget. They’re starting to put some meat on that this past week. The lieutenant governor and the governor had a press event for that and they’re starting to sort of describe what that will be. Here’s what’s interesting. I mean, it’s a lot of money for everything except what we know really prevents gun crimes, which is more police. There’s no money for more police. There’s really no money for more prosecution. Remember, Josh Shapiro was attorney general, we were actually authorized to do legislation to prosecute gun crimes in the worst place for gun crimes in this commonwealth, which is Philadelphia. He did not. So now he’s interested in that. They’re going to study guns, they’re going to do this, they’re going to do that. So most of it’s a waste of money. I actually think it’s kind of a red herring. So they’ll take it out of the budget and they’ll say those mean Republicans don’t care about gun crimes.”

Also in the proposal is money for parks, particularly urban parks. 

Schemel continued, “Most of the crime involving firearms, almost all of it’s in urban areas. That, to me, is actually fascinating because there’s a real link between poverty and the effects of poverty, which would be just rundown neighborhoods, and crime involving guns or without guns. So that is actually an acknowledgment that at the root of this is crime and broken homes and by improving the situation for people in those communities, you might actually be able to tackle some of this. Now, I’m not saying we should shoot out 100 million dollars for a program like that. But that, to me, is interesting. The rest of it is largely just garbage. So we’ll see where that goes. I suspect it just goes away.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “All the money that’s thrown at things with good intentions, but nothing is really accomplished and they don’t address some of the real issues like the fact that we’re taking away consequences for bad crime. We seem to just ignore the fact that if you ignore smaller crimes and then they keep escalating and escalating and then sometimes escalate to gun crime. If we’re ignoring that, how can we possibly say we really care and we’re really addressing these things?” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “And look at the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit proposal. We just had a huge bust, lots of people and we’re not even done with the police reports on this SNAP bust here. But yet we’ve got lawmakers who want to lighten the load and we’ll figure out what’s your punishment level here and that’s my money. Do lawmakers really see that you should hold people accountable no matter if it’s $10 or $1,000 or $10,000?”

“I agree,” Schemel said. “There’s been a big push for that wanting to say oh, so what? You know, these SNAP benefits, oh, everybody is fraudulent on it. It’s a fraud. When you allow crimes at a small level, they grow into larger crimes and that actually gives people an attitude of crime or criminal activity which we should break. We don’t want that. That’s why you prosecute those crimes. Those little things really add up to a lot over time.”

Jansen suggested, “It’s an entitlement thing. Then when you add in certain identities, it’s okay, because we should understand why they’re doing it, and we’re going to start dividing who gets prosecuted, how hard for what things, you’re really getting into a mess.”