On March 7, Governor Shapiro outlined a $44.4 billion dollar budget that he believes will make Pennsylvania’s economy stronger, communities safer, schools better, and families healthier. He also considers it a commonsense approach that will deliver real results.
On the economic development front, the increased funding for the Office of International Business Development will be an important resource for the Commonwealth’s Local Development Districts (LDDs) – they play key role in regional economic development efforts. We’ll look forward to further investment in OIBD and also in the Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance line as budget negotiations progress this spring.
Whether you live in a growing borough like Norristown or in a bustling third-class city like Lancaster, public safety a huge cost driver. The Governor’s efforts to augment 911 and other emergency services will be important for all municipal governments.
Few decisions faced by state policymakers are more daunting then how to tackle public education – at all levels. The Governor’s off to a great start with proposed increases to the University of Pittsburgh, and the other state-relateds. However, the Commonwealth Court’s recent decision has made things even more befuddling for elementary/secondary funding. Governor Shapiro will likely take his time to find a workable approach to implementing the Court’s directive. In the meantime, he’s proposing a nearly $1 billion increase. In addition, providers like SPIN will benefit from the $30 million targeted for current pre-K spots. The $100 million proposed for school mental health will help Community Services Group and their peers provide schools with the resources they need to help students when they need help the most. Career and technology education and apprenticeships also get a bump.
Harrisburg will need to resist efforts to interpret “fairness” as license to restrict funding to Agora, the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, Insight PA Cyber Charter School, and other public cyber charter schools in the Commonwealth – they are an important option for thousands of families whose children are thriving in these online settings.
Now for the few budget issues more challenging than education. The Department of Human Services plays a significant role in public policy efforts to create healthier families – including those counted among the most vulnerable in the Commonwealth. The Governor’s proposed spending plan invests in the physical and mental health care of Pennsylvania families. Included in the Governor’s plan is increased Medicaid funding for health systems like the Lehigh Valley Health Network which provide important obstetric/neonatal, trauma, and burn care services. The Governor’s proposed tax credit for new nurses will also help LVHN restore its workforce.
Also included is funding to take people off the ID/A waiting list and to replace federal monies used in the current budget to underwrite the wage rates of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). However, further collaboration with the General Assembly is needed to bolster DHS funding for DSP’s. Unless an additional $430 million in state general funds are included in the 2023-2024 state budget, many ID/A individuals risk losing access to essential care and services. The additional funding coupled with a tax credit similar to the one for nurses will help InVision Human Services, Keystone Human Services and other ID/A providers fill the hundreds and hundreds of vacancies they have around the Commonwealth. Families need these additional workers to care for their loved ones. Otherwise, they will remain in crisis.
In the coming weeks, we will likely hear that the Commonwealth needs to be careful that it doesn’t spend more than it is bringing in. At the moment, it’s like a family who comes into some extra money trying to decide how much they save, how much they spend on something(s) special that they could not otherwise do, and how much they use to take a little pressure off their day-to-day expenses knowing they can’t become entirely reliant on those funds. It’s a balance that will take some time, but the Governor and General Assembly will get it done.