We the People–PA has three main goals for the 2023-24 budget. While Governor Shapiro’s speech expressed broad support for them, his budget proposal falls short of meeting those goals. We hope to see the General Assembly enact a budget and other legislation that does more to attain them.
Minimum Wage. As Governor Shapiro recognized, it is long past time to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. Well over a million people who currently make just below or just above $15 per hour will benefit from his plan to raise the minimum wage to that level on January 1, 2024. And it will add billions in spending that will spur on our economy. But we have three other priorities for minimum wage legislation that the governor did not mention. It is time for the state to allow our counties and municipal governments to raise the minimum wage above the state level, ending the state preemption of such action and allowing them to meet the needs of their own communities. It is time to enact “one fair wage,” which would end the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. And it is time to institute a yearly cost of living increase in the minimum wage. We are grateful that the governor’s budget does support another of our priorities by adding $1.28 million to the Department of Labor budget for hiring more labor law compliance investigators to enforce minimum wage and other labor laws.
K-12 Education. We have long believed that a funding system that does not give every child in the state, no matter where they are from or what they look like, an equal opportunity to receive an adequate education fails to meet the test of justice. Governor Shapiro’s speech recognized the importance of the recent Commonwealth Court decision declaring the state’s system of funding K-12 education unconstitutional because it does not meet that the state’s own standard of what our kids need. But, by his own admission, Gov. Shapiro’s proposal for funding K-12 education does not address the constitutional requirement set by Judge Jubelirer. We understand that this is time to rethink funding of K-12 education. But while we are doing that, the budget that begins on July 1 must take a major step towards meeting the moral and constitutional obligation to our children. And the state can do this given our huge $13 billion surplus in state funds. We call on the General Assembly to add at least $750 billion in basic funding through the funding formula and an additional $400 million through the Level Up program. Level Up ensures that the least well-funded school districts all over our state start to catch up.
Housing. We are grateful that Gov. Shapiro’s speech recognized the importance of the Whole Home Repairs program and promised to expedite funds for it this year. But we believe that to meet the needs of people throughout the state, funding should be increased to $300 million per year and should be a continuing part of the budget.
WE THE PEOPLE – PA is a campaign of, by, and for all the people of Pennsylvania. Our goal is to ensure that everyone can thrive no matter whether they are Black, brown, or white; native-born or immigrant; Asian; Latin; poor or rich; or live in cities, suburbs or rural areas. We call for decisive leadership and bold action from state lawmakers to keep our families safe today and to build a stronger, healthier, and a more just future.
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