By: Michael Geer

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s new Governor, Josh Shapiro, delivered his first-ever budget address, which, here at the state level, is probably the closest thing to a “State of the Union” address.

The Governor’s budget speech sets forth the administration’s policy and budget priorities. It also serves as a sort of a “kick-off” for budget season, with legislative hearings starting this month, to culminate with (hoped for) passage of a budget by the June 30th constitutional deadline. That deadline has been blown through a number of times in recent decades, however.

Oftentimes with a new governor there is a “honeymoon” period where the legislature tends to be (or at least appear to be) more open to the priorities of the new administration. But with the extreme contentiousness that ushered in the beginning of this legislative session, including a change of majority in the House and a very rocky first six weeks with little action or organization, there may not be much of a romance at all.

Now, to the speech. First, regarding education, I wholeheartedly agree with Gov. Shapiro’s words that Pennsylvania needs to empower parents in the education of their children.  Whether that’s just rhetoric, though, remains to be seen. The recent Commonwealth Court ruling found our current system for funding public education is unconstitutional. This provides a blank slate of sorts to recast our system in a way that truly does empower parents, help students, and protect taxpayers.

However, Gov. Shapiro’s proposed solution is an increase of $1 billion to public education, which frankly sounds like the same-old playbook without addressing underlying problems.

There are better solutions to empowering parents and helping children, like the Lifeline Scholarship Program, which Gov. Shapiro voiced support for on the campaign trail. This proposal would help provide an education that better suits a child’s individual needs, and allows funding to go directly towards students, not just school districts.

I’m also encouraged by what was not included in Josh Shapiro’s budget address – support for the commercial sale of marijuana for non-medical use. Although Gov. Shapiro has expressed support for this, perhaps his exclusion of the topic in his speech is a sign he won’t be pushing it now. The retail sale of dangerously-high potent marijuana products in local communities for “recreational” use would bring serious harm to children and families, costs that would outweigh any potential tax revenues.

Gov. Shapiro also proudly proclaimed his support for a dangerous bill to grant special status for “LGBTQ” Pennsylvanians. Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) has circulated a co-sponsor memo for such a bill in the PA State House. Among its many dangers, the Kenyatta Bill would make it impossible for Christian schools to only hire people who align with their mission, would force creative persons like baker Jack Phillips to create messages they disagree with, and remove conscience protections for medical professionals who don’t want to participate in so-called “gender transition” procedures like mastectomies on healthy girls. 

Sadly, but not surprisingly, as he concluded his speech, Gov. Shapiro made sure to restate (for the 10-thousandth time?) his continued, enthusiastic support for abortion. Does the fact that he included this in his budget speech mean that he will, like many of his Democrat gubernatorial colleagues in other states, push for taxpayer funding of abortion?

We at PA Family are watching all of this very closely, and with your help, we continue to advance agendas and policies that foster human flourishing, the well-being of children and families and benefit the common good. We also understand that we must fight against policies and proposals that run counter to those aims and which violate God’s created order.

Thank you for your partnership in our work, and please pray for Pennsylvania and those in authority.  (1 Timothy 2)

Michael Geer is the President of Pennsylvania Family Institute.