HARRISBURG, Pa, (WHTM) — Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had plenty to say about Governor Josh Shapiro’s first budget proposal, presented before a joint session of the General Assembly Tuesday.
“This is about investing in Pennsylvania and investing in Pennsylvanians,” Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Jordan Harris (D) said.
Democratic lawmakers embraced the governor’s proposed budget as “bold” and “comprehensive.”
“Let them know that there’s a light ahead of us, and it is not the train wreck coming at us, it is the light of opportunity,” Appropriations Committee Minority Chair Sen. Vincent Hughes (D) said.
Republican lawmakers were less enthusiastic, but not completely disappointed.
“It was really good to see this year’s budget address wasn’t as ideological as they have been,” Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R) said.
Ward said education is an area with a lot of consensus.
“We’re all committed to making sure that our education system works for every single individual student,” she said.
She specifically expressed support for investments in vocational training and technical education.
“There are good paying jobs out there in the trades and in the skilled labor force,” Ward said.
Other areas with bipartisan support include investments in child care, transportation, public safety, and mental health.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll want to move forward with a spirit of collaboration that the governor called us to,” Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia County) said.
Republicans’ biggest issue is spending — how to fund multiple programs.
“There are some things that are nonstarters like spending money we don’t have,” Ward said.
Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Scott Martin (R) said the proposed budget outspends the state’s revenue.
“You’re basically seeing the Rainy Day Fund within two years starting to be depleted,” he said.
“The governor’s proposal for spending, if anything, was rather conservative,” Street said.
Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R) also took issue with Pennsylvania’s efforts to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, though that was not explicitly stated in the governor’s budget address. RGGI is an effort to cap carbon dioxide emissions from power plants run by fossil fuels.
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“That is a $600 million tax on every consumer of electricity in this Commonwealth,” Pittman said. “We have to acknowledge the fact that affordable energy and affordable electricity is absolutely critical.”
Another disagreement area is whether the state will meet the June 30 budget deadline. Democrats claim they are confident.
“We will have a product that every one of the folks here today and everyone across Pennsylvania will be proud of,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D) said.
Republicans are not so sure.
“We’re not focused on an arbitrary deadline. We’re focused on making sure that whatever product we develop is a common sense product that reflects the priorities of this Senate Republican majority,” Pittman said.
Lawmakers from both parties acknowledged the governor’s budget proposal is just the first step. Developing the budget will be a process, but they say they are ready to get to work.