March 8 – With a $45.8 billion proposed budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year in Pennsylvania, Governor Josh Shapiro held a 75-minute budget presentation yesterday – the second longest in PA’s history.
The budget will need to be passed by June 30.
Governor Shapiro said, “We are tasked with passing two budgets over the next 16 months and we must look at each as a necessary piece of a comprehensive solution that makes progress for our children over the long term. This budget is the first step and today we are making a significant down payment. All in, this budget increased public education funding by $1 billion this year.”
The crowd cheered.
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “The money is flowing to the people that Josh is owing.”
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “I was struck yesterday, the Republican response I actually felt was fairly muted. They realize he’s starting high, they’re going to come in low, where does it land? That piece about the education is the one to keep an eye on because yes, a big piece of this proposed increase is earmarked for public education programs.”
It includes adding more counselors to public schools.
Barkdoll said, “That’s the piece that that commonwealth court decision told the general assembly you must come up with a new formula on how to fund Pennsylvania schools. That has not been done yet. I’m not sure what the plan is to address that in the context of these budget talks.”
The budget also includes expanding the property tax and rent rebate program.
The cell phone tax will also be eliminated – almost 16 percent of your monthly cell phone bill is taxes. That will go away.
It also would add about 400 state troopers, as well as tax incentives for people that want to get into nursing, teaching and policing.
Barkdoll said, “One of the concerns is if these expenditures were passed as proposed, there’s not enough revenue to cover the expenditures. They would have to dip into the Rainy Day Fund. There’s no doubt this will come down between now and June 30.”
Ryan wondered, “Can we see what’s happening in the bank accounts, say if we’re looking for $1 billion more in education funding, I’ve heard that the school district in Chambersburg’s got $20 million sitting in a bank account. If that’s happening throughout the rest of the school districts, why do we need $1 billion more? Why are we sitting on all of this money? Why more if you’ve got stuff already tucked away?”
Barkdoll said, “This is another area I think in need of reform when it comes to school budgets. Part A is the general assembly should say there’s no school budget passed until the state passes its budget. This idea of the school passing a budget and tax increases and then finding out they got more money from the state, to me is just absurd.”
Every school district has a Rainy Day Fund and there are some minimum requirements for that when they get audited each year.
Barkdoll said, “We’ve certainly had years where the state does not pass a budget by June 30 and school districts are then forced to use that Rainy Day Fund to keep their budget going until the state makes its allocation. That’s one of the reasons that it’s in there. There is a lot of money collectively in these Rainy Day Funds around the state and maybe that’s something the general assembly needs to look at maybe loosening the audit requirements or the minimum thresholds for school districts.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “To know how they tried to change that funding formula once and how complicated that was, I don’t see how that common court decision is going to result in anything happening quickly. I don’t know how you resolve that with the order to do so and then how do we figure out budgeting for schools in the meantime. Didn’t we already shove a bunch of money to education? It’s just absurd. Pennsylvania, K-12 teachers by compensation measures, not just salary, compensation are very well paid for their job, but…they’ve created policies that make teaching almost impossible and then they want to give more money to the counselors because we have to do all this mental health. What you’re doing is you’re making teachers and school employees become the pastors, the priests, the parents of children. They’re not getting educated. You want to throw more money at these programs that don’t educate our children and actually don’t help their mental health. It’s going the opposite direction because they’re indoctrinating them with things that make them weaker, not stronger in the mind. We’re throwing money down a hole and we’re not getting what we really want – well-educated children. Throwing money at it without changing the culture – the same with police. Unless you change the culture of how police are being treated and the value we put on stopping crime, I don’t care how much money you throw at it you’re not going to change it. It’s just going to still get worse.”
Barkdoll noted, “It’s a good point about the budget overlay of this school funding dilemma because that commonwealth court decision from Judge Cohn Jubelirer, she does not say in the order what the new formula has to be. She just kicks it to the general assembly and says the current formula is illegal. You now need to go figure it out, but they’re working on that simultaneous to this new budget. I’m not sure how they get that in place within the next 90 days. I think this is something that very well could be subject to more litigation.”
There is also a two percent across the board increase for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools.
State Senator Doug Mastriano said, “It’s not sustainable. You have less and less students in the classroom. We have more and more administration bureaucrats. So the classroom sizes generally should be shrinking across the state because our student population is diminishing. Right now according to the National Education Association I think we’re ranked eighth highest most expensive in the nation. Throwing money at a problem is not going to fix it if you want better quality education and more options for the parents. Which Josh am I supposed to believe? The one who made all these grandiose promises yesterday or the one that said complete opposite things on the campaign trail last summer? For example he’s expecting a windfall of $670 million from a tax on the people of Pennsylvania, an energy tax called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Last year he talked down and even hinted that he would probably not have Pennsylvania be part of that because it’s going to spike and double an increase in a massive way the cost to heat your homes, run your businesses. He made those same promises also to the trade union people who believed him because with the RGGI many of these trade union jobs will be forced out of state. He is a left-wing politician and that’s the way he’s going to act.”
Jansen said, “He talked maybe about allowing school choice, so I guess that’s out the window. The culture of education is being ruined. That’s why we don’t have a lot of teachers. We have teachers retiring and leaving or going to the private schools because the culture in the public schools is so bad. He just wants to throw money behind the entities that are going to cause that culture to get worse.”
Mastriano agreed, “The police officers know that Wolf and Shapiro do not have their backs. When something goes wrong, right way it’s believe the officer’s in the wrong and they’re treated like the criminal when they’re out there trying to protect us from the criminals. It’s disgusting. In the budget, Josh Shapiro is increasing everything except what matters. He’s not increasing any of the scholarships for education opportunities that we’re offering to kids, especially out of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, these low income families that are trapped in these terrible schools in the inner city. Their only lifeline are some of these educational scholarships and Josh Shapiro is against those. He hinted something the complete opposite when he was on the campaign trail. A tale of two Shapiros. Which one do we believe? Believe the one where it goes left. That’s where he lives. That’s where he dwells.”