Pennsylvania’s budget has been thrown into uncertainty due to an impasse between the divided legislature and Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro. As of this writing, the state budget for fiscal year 2024 is weeks overdue. Until the Governor signs a final spending plan, funds cannot legally flow to schools, public universities, hospitals, and other services.
So how did this happen? The answer is simple: Democrats in the legislature and Governor Shapiro reneged on a deal to exchange a limited school choice provision for hundreds of millions of dollars in their spending priorities.
The Governor had previously endorsed the creation of school vouchers and agreed to sign a budget that included a relatively small, $100 million program to provide students and parents the opportunity to attend a private school of their choice. As a result, the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate agreed to pass a budget containing this provision in exchange for $300 million in additional spending demanded by liberal members. This compromise budget was set to be passed by both chambers and sent to Governor Shapiro’s desk.
Before that could happen, and under immense pressure from the powerful teachers union, Governor Shapiro caved on his position and announced that he would line-item veto the Lifeline Scholarship school voucher program—thereby striking it from the budget. However, the $300 million in Democratic priorities would remain in the budget, despite Senate Republicans only agreeing to approve it as an unfortunate tradeoff for school choice. This double-cross by Governor Shapiro was nothing less than a complete betrayal of parents, students, Pennsylvania voters, and over half of all state lawmakers who supported the Lifeline Scholarship program.
The Governor’s budget betrayal is also a bad deal for taxpayers. Pennsylvania must pass a balanced budget each year, so every penny of state spending must come directly from the state’s residents. $300 million in extra spending would hamstring the state’s ability to cut taxes next year, and may increase pressure for potential tax increases. The Governor and Democrats want their extra spending without the piece of the bargain they promised.
Senate Republicans are holding strong against this state budget. They should continue their adamant opposition until the Governor agrees to sign a budget that either includes the Lifeline Scholarship program or removes the spending binge. Americans for Tax Reform applauds the Senate for their dedication to protecting parents and taxpayers by stopping the Governor’s end-run around voters.