Pennsylvania Perspective Special Edition: 2024 Budget Address Recap

February 7, 2024

On Tuesday, February 6, Governor Josh Shapiro delivered his second annual Budget Address in the state Capitol rotunda to a joint session of the General Assembly, where he unveiled his $48.34 billion FY25 Executive Budget — a 6.2% increase over last year’s. If passed as proposed, the Commonwealth would still have an $11 billion surplus by the end of June 2025. His speech emphasized themes of bipartisan collaboration and compromise and the importance of following through on founder William Penn’s promise of creating a tolerant, inclusive, and just society. For more information, please see the executive budget presentation and press release about the address. Below are some of the highlights of the Governor’s budget proposal.

Public Education

The proposed budget would invest $1.1 billion into new funding for K-12 education, with a focus on equity and adequacy, increasing special education funding by $50 million, pre-K programs funding by $30 million, and more for student mental health support. Governor Shapiro also emphasized the need for additional investment in school repairs, remedies for teacher shortages, and the creation of a toolkit for teachers and parents on digital literacy and critical thinking. He also implored legislators to consider updating the funding formula for cyber charter schools to provide more equitable funding. Governor Shapiro also stressed the importance of vo-tech and apprenticeship programs and proposed a new “Career Connect” program to connect employers with talented young people and create thousands of internships over the next 10 years.

Higher Education Reform

The proposed budget includes a comprehensive three-part plan to transform higher education, which includes:

  1. Unifying the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities and publicly run community colleges under a new governance system to enhance coordination and affordability, including a $975 million investment to create and maintain this system.
  2. Implementing a $1,000 per semester cap on tuition and fees for median-income Pennsylvanians attending state-owned universities and community colleges, including increasing funding for state-related universities — Lincoln, Pitt, Penn State, and Temple — by 5% this year.
  3. Establishing a performance-based funding formula to incentivize institutions to prioritize student success and address workforce shortages in key sectors.

Public Transit Investment

The proposed budget would invest $1.5 billion in transit systems across the Commonwealth over the next five years, including a $1.16 billion investment in SEPTA, with a $161 million increase and automatic 15% local match to help ensure clean, safe, and on-time public transit.

Economic Development

Governor Shapiro highlighted the comprehensive economic development strategy unveiled last week, which aims to create opportunities for all Pennsylvanians by investing in key sectors — agriculture, energy, life sciences, manufacturing, and robotics and technology. The plan also includes streamlining government processes and fostering regional resilience. The proposed budget also includes new funding and policies to support historically disadvantaged businesses in PA. Governor Shapiro also urged his colleagues in the General Assembly to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour in order to stay competitive with neighboring states.

Marijuana Legalization

Governor Shapiro called on state legislators to legalize recreational marijuana to in order to boost the state economy, create jobs, and create an additional revenue stream for the Commonwealth. He also highlighted the importance of expunging the records of those convicted for nonviolent possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Housing 

The proposed budget includes an additional $50 million investment in the Whole Home Repairs program to meet high demand and support struggling homeowners. Governor Shapiro also proposes increasing the Housing Trust Fund funding cap to $100 million over the next four years.

Health Care

The proposed budget includes a $50 million investment to help those who can’t afford private health insurance premiums to purchase health insurance, which would also help lower premiums for an additional 400,000 Pennsylvanians. Governor Shapiro also proposed reforming the operation of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to lower prescription drug costs and highlighted the need to address rural Pennsylvania’s medical debt crisis.

LGBTQ Rights

Governor Shapiro calls for legislators to pass the Fairness Act to protect LGBTQ rights in Pennsylvania.

Criminal Justice Reform & Gun Violence Prevention

The proposed budget includes a $10 million increase for public defenders and $5 million for legal aid — a 50% increase — with a focus on eviction diversion and victim support. Governor Shapiro also encouraged his colleagues in the legislature to pass gun reform legislation to close loopholes and strengthen laws to save lives.

Supporting First Responders

Governor Shapiro highlighted the need for resources, equipment, and funding to support first responders, which the proposed budget aims to do.

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