It’s #PaBudget Day. What are you listening for today? | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Here’s what’s topping your priorities list as Gov. Josh Shapiro gives his first speech

By: - March 7, 2023 7:04 am

Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. (Commonwealth Media Services)

It’s been said more than once that budgets are more than just a collection of numbers and decimal points, they’re statements of principle and a reflection of what a gubernatorial administration prioritizes and where it focuses its energy.

In just a couple of hours’ time, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro will deliver his first budget address to a joint session of the state House and Senate. And while details on the granular specifics of the speech are scant, the broad outlines are not.

As the Capital-Star’s Marley Parish and Peter Hall reported on Monday, matters concerning economic developmentpublic education fundinginnovationstreamlining state government, and making it more business-friendly, are expected to loom large.

And while those may be the marquee issues that dominate the Democratic governor’s first budget address, there are a host of other issues — from childcare and the environment to transportation and infrastructure — that also occupy Harrisburg’s advocacy community and those who watch state government either professionally or just because they care.

So the Capital-Star reached out to some of those folks ahead of the speech to see what they’ll be watching and listening for this Tuesday morning. Below, a sample of what they had to say.

Pennsylvania Capitol Building. May 24, 2022. Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).
Pennsylvania Capitol Building on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

David Masur, executive director, PennEnvironment: “The big thing that we’ll be looking for at PennEnvironment, and, I think a lot of the environamental groups will be looking for, is … [funding for the state Department of Environmental Protection].

Advocates “feel DEP has gotten short-shrift on the budget, which has affected staffing and expertise, which has really impacted morale. DEP funding is the number 1 issue and I am hopeful the governor will take incremental steps to make DEP whole.

“There will be an eye toward [the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources] and funding for our state parks and state [game] lands … More and more people are flocking to our state parks and forests. They need to be properly upgraded and funded.”

Rich Askey, president, Pennsylvania State Education Association: PSEA looks forward to hearing more about Gov. Shapiro’s vision for the future of public education in Pennsylvania after the landmark school funding court decision earlier this year.

“We hope his budget will continue to provide the resources that students need to succeed, including robust investments in school nurses, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals. Students today are struggling with anxiety, depression, and bullying like never before — and they need to have access to qualified, caring professionals in their schools to support them.

“We also look forward to working with the Shapiro administration to solve Pennsylvania’s school staffing shortage crisis. PSEA strongly believes that this should include a state-funded effort to increase minimum salaries for education professionals, including educators, school counselors, and nurses, to $60,000 a year within five years and to set a minimum wage of $20 an hour for education support professionals, such as paraprofessionals, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers. This is a necessary step to make jobs in education more attractive and competitive.”

Kati Brillhart, government affairs director, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children: “I’m listening for references to kids! I’m focused on whether the big talk around solving the child care crisis and the need for Career & Tech Ed will pan out to sufficient funding increases for the Child Care Works program and the CTE [budget] line.”

Cumberland County Commissioner Jean Foschi: “Mental health funding to counties.”

Mustafa Rashed, president & CEO, Bellevue Strategies: “[Pennsylvania] has two major post-pandemic benefits: The benefit of being able to evaluate what happens when you don’t invest in systems and the benefit of being able to do something about it. I think the governor intends to make proper investments where [they’re] most needed: education, infrastructure and workforce development to keep Pennsylvania moving forward.”

Rusty Baker, PAMuseums: “You know I’m hooked on the cultural funding line items.”

@BigGeorge, Twitter: “After reading additional prognostications (not from the groundhog), I will also watch [Shapiro’s] language concerning school choice and charter school funding within his educational plan. I am strongly in favor of monies being directed to impoverished public schools.”

The Pennsylvania House (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

And … on the legislative side of things:

Savannah Thorpe, Pa. Senate Democrats: “The Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus is united in a few key priorities in this budget: Education, workforce development, gun violence prevention, housing, seniors, and healthcare, including mental healthcare. We look forward to a thoughtful and responsible budget that can create a bipartisan consensus and set Pennsylvania up for success down the road. Together, we will work with the GOP caucuses to create a budget that reflects our values as a commonwealth and will lead our communities to success and prosperity.”

Nicole Reigelman, Pa. House Democrats: “Pennsylvania deserves a budget plan that continues to invest in education, in our workforce and our economy, and supports our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. The commonwealth is fortunate to have a significant surplus and the monthly revenue outlook continues to be positive. That said, we know we have significant challenges ahead, especially following the recent Commonwealth Court ruling on education funding. House Democrats look forward to hearing the governor’s budget address and doing our part as the majority caucus to examine and support a spending plan that helps all Pennsylvanians while working toward a longer term plan that ensures our public schools are funded equitably.”

Kate Flessner, Pa. Senate Republicans: “We look forward to hearing ways in which Governor Shapiro’s ideas may align with Senate Republican Caucus principles to strengthen Pennsylvania, by focusing on protecting jobs, empowering families, and defending freedoms.”


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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.