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To: Members of the General Assembly, editorial board members, and political reporters

From: Marc Stier, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Policy Center

Subject: What we are looking for in a budget agreement

Date: July 1, 2024

The Pennsylvania state budget is now officially late. By all reports, however, House and Senate negotiators, as well as the governor’s office, are working diligently to reach an agreement. We are not concerned by a brief delay as we know that the issues under consideration are complex and that necessary compromises are difficult in a divided government.

We do want to set out some criteria by which we will evaluate a successful compromise.

  1. Enactment of a plan to meet our constitutional and moral responsibility to fully and fairly fund our schools, along the lines proposed by the Basic Education Funding Commission and with first-year funding at the level proposed by Governor Shapiro.
  1. A limited tax cut directed toward the Pennsylvanians who most suffer from our upside-down tax system, ideally by instituting a state piggyback on the federal earned income tax cut.
  1. Enactment and funding of the Grow PA program which would provide scholarships of $5,000 to Pennsylvanians attending a wide range of public and private colleges in fields where there is demonstrated need for more trained workers.
  1. A short path to a minimum wage of $15 per hour with a cost-of-living increase.
  1. A substantial new investment in the Whole-Home Repairs program.

We have not commented on the Grow PA program before, which was first proposed by Senator Scott Martin and received unanimous support by the full Senate and the House Education Committee. This proposal has many similarities to a plan called The Pennsylvania Promise, which our previous organization developed in 2018 and Senator Vincent Hughes and Representative Jordan Harris introduced at that time. It also has similarities to Governor Wolf’s Nellie Bly scholarship program. We are gratified that Senator Martin has embraced this set of ideas and has championed them along with other Republican and Democratic senators and House members. While the current plan is not as extensive as some of the earlier proposals, it is a good step in the right direction. And it shows that if Democrats and Republicans focus on the critical needs of the state, they can overcome partisan division and enact proposals that will benefit not just the recipients of these scholarships but, by contributing to economic development in the state, all of us. We hope it is a model for a budget that encompasses the five proposals listed above.