Gov. Josh Shapiro touts his administration’s ‘GSD’ attitude at Press Club luncheon
In a Q&A session after prepared remarks, Shapiro said there were still unfinished items on his agenda, however.
Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at the Pennsylvania Press Club’s November 2023 luncheon in Harrisburg. (Photo by Commonwealth Media Services)
HARRISBURG — In the finale of its monthly speaker series for 2023, the Pennsylvania Press Club hosted Gov. Josh Shapiro at a Harrisburg luncheon on Monday. The governor touted some of his administration’s achievements thus far, and mentioned some unfinished items he still wants to address, including raising the state’s minimum wage.
Standing alongside a sign with the words “Getting Stuff Done”, Shapiro rattled off a list of accomplishments during his first year including universal free breakfast for K-12 public school students, property tax relief for seniors, repairing a portion of I-95 in Philadelphia, enhancing breast cancer screening coverage, removing the college degree requirement for state troopers, and authorizing automatic voter registration.
“I think it’s pretty clear we’ve gotten a lot of stuff done,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said over the last several weeks he’s seen bills come to his desk that indicate progress is being made and that he thinks it’s setting the stage for a “really productive 2024.”
Following his 30-minute speech, Shapiro took questions submitted by the audience, beginning with one on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state initiative to limit carbon emissions, and whether the state plans to appeal the Commonwealth Court’s Nov. 1 ruling.
The court ruled that Pennsylvania cannot enter into RGGI because it violates the state Constitution, and that the state’s participation in RGGI must be approved through the General Assembly. The Commonwealth Court said in its ruling that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection does not have the authority to impose a tax.
Shapiro has not yet indicated whether the Commonwealth will appeal the decision, as environmentalists have urged him to do. Under state law, he had 30 days to do so, which means the clock is ticking.
“I think we’ll have more to say about that in the coming days,” Shapiro said.
He pointed to the RGGI working group that his administration assembled.
“I heard from a lot of different stakeholders, leaders in the environmental community, leaders in the labor community, industry leaders who complained to me that they felt that they were unheard,” Shapiro said. “They weren’t being heard in the past administration. They weren’t actually talking to one another a whole lot.”
Shapiro added that he thinks while there were “fundamental disagreements,” between those in the group that the consensus is that a “cap and invest strategy that was unique to Pennsylvania was a good way forward.”
In response to another question about education, Shapiro said that he considered the matter of school vouchers as “unfinished business,” along with raising the state’s minimum wage, passing statute of limitations reform, and gun violence legislation.
Shapiro has previously voiced support for a Senate Republican-backed $100 million school voucher program during budget negotiations and later line-item vetoed the program when House Democrats said they wouldn’t support it.
In February, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the state’s funding system for K-12 public schools was unconstitutional.
Shapiro said on Monday that he’s hopeful that Democrats and Republicans will find common ground on a formula that provides equitable funding for education and said he’s asked the Basic Education Funding Commission to finish its work by Jan. 1, so he can announce in his next budget “a formula that enjoys bipartisan support.”
Shapiro also was asked during the Q&A what date he was made aware of the sexual assault allegations against his then-legislative Secretary Mike Vereb, who resigned from his position on Sept. 27, and what immediate actions were taken.
The governor said he couldn’t speak to “any particular case,” but said there is a “robust, independent process” in place. And he didn’t specifically address the plans by legislators to introduce legislation to strengthen rules against sexual harassment in the workplace, but said it was “encouraging that lawmakers are now looking to try and adopt standards across the board, particularly in the legislature, a place that has had very little standards and virtually no transparency in over many, many years.”
A recent instance of sexual harassment allegations in the legislature centered around former Democratic Rep. Mike Zabel, who resigned from office in March, following sexual harassment allegations by multiple women.
Shapiro added he was “hopeful” legislators would be able “to get some bills to my desk that increase transparency in this area and show that we can again come together on a bipartisan basis on important matters like this.”
Shapiro also spoke of the press’s role in holding elected officials responsible.
“I know you seek truth and a time where misinformation is oftentimes just a click away,” Shapiro said. “And even in this time of media consolidation and limited resources, you take on the solemn responsibility of keeping Pennsylvanians informed about what their government is doing and what’s happening in their neighborhoods, in their communities.”
The final question Shapiro fielded on Monday afternoon was about his trip to New Hampshire in late September and when his next trip would be to the Granite State. The trip fueled the ongoing speculation that the governor has presidential aspirations, which he usually dismisses when asked.
“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been able to take our record of accomplishments here and share it with people across the country,” he said Monday. “I’m going to do everything in my power to continue to tell our Pennsylvania story — and as for another trip to New Hampshire? I don’t have one planned.”
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