We asked, you answered: What should Gov. Shapiro prioritize in Pennsylvania’s new budget?

FILE - Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at the Finishing Trades Institute on March 9, 2023, in Philadelphia. Gov. Shapiro's administration said starting Tuesday Sept. 19 2023 it is making it easier for someone to register to vote when they are getting or renewing a driver's license in Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

By Patrick Berkery

February 1, 2024

With the governor having previewed two of his main objectives for Pennsylvania’s upcoming budget — overhauling the state’s higher ed system and increasing public transportation funding — we asked our newsletter readers to sound off on what they wanted to see Shapiro prioritize in the state’s new budget.

Gov. Josh Shapiro will unveil his proposal for Pennsylvania’s new budget on Tuesday.

Last week, the governor said that one of his goals is to overhaul the state’s higher education system, an objective he hinted at during his first budget proposal as governor in 2023, when he said it was time “to rethink our system of higher education – because what we’re doing isn’t working.”

Then on Monday, the Shapiro administration announced that the 2024-25 budget proposal will include the commonwealth’s first increase in public transportation funding in over a decade.

With the governor having previewed two of his budget priorities, we asked our newsletter readers earlier this week to sound off on what they wanted to see Shapiro prioritize in the state’s new budget.

Here’s what your fellow Pennsylvanians had to say (answers have been edited for length and clarity):

“I think Gov. Shapiro should be concerned about senior citizens’ property tax.”

-Bonnie Wertz, Greensburg

“Lower property taxes. Stop penalizing people for what they have worked for their whole lives. Stop making seniors afraid they will end up homeless. The taxes are higher than the original mortgage.”

-Colette Fritz, Brecknock Township

“Raise pensions for retired teachers. I taught in South Middleton Township Schools for 35 years. I’ve been retired for almost 20 years, and we’ve never had a cost of living (COLA) raise in those 20 years.”

-Michael State, Chambersburg

“Statewide full-day kindergarten should be a big priority. Pa. is behind the times on this critical issue. Too many kids are being put at an early disadvantage.”

-Paul Hilburg, Haverford

“I am struggling to survive on my teachers’ pension and I beg the governor to consider giving retired teachers a cost of living raise. We have not had a cost of living increase in 24 years. We gave our lives to the children of the commonwealth and we just ask for a pension that we can survive on.”

-Deborah Ellis, Lebanon

“Free cancer screening for all firefighters, active and retired.”

-Don F., Wilkes-Barre

“Many people in Pa. desperately need money from the Whole Home Repairs program. The original program had to turn people away because the applications were overwhelming.”

-Linda Paul, Catasauqua

“I would like to see financial relief for senior citizens. We no longer have children in school yet we pay the same school taxes. Our cost of living expenses often makes our ‘golden years’ very difficult for many senior citizens.”

-Rose Sebra, Pennsburg

“I’d like to see property tax relief and drug cost reduction for seniors. People like my husband and I look forward to retirement, but without a pension from our employers it really makes a difference and sets us back, unable to have some money to enjoy in retirement.”

-Jane Kirschman, Orefield

“Skilled nursing facilities that provide necessary care to patients are grossly under-reimbursed for the cost to provide such care. This is creating disruption and a bottleneck across the healthcare continuum; patients needing to be discharged from acute care hospitals have limited access to skilled nursing/rehab care. Also, property tax relief to senior citizens must occur as property owners typically do not have children utilizing the public school system which drives the majority of the annual property taxes. Consider a renter tax liability to offset these changes.”

-Laurie Cannella, Pittsburgh

“The budget priorities I want to see are higher ed and public school restructuring.”

-David Sheatz, Seneca

“Definitely tax relief for us older seniors.”

–Barbara Gulbish, Trappe

I’ve worked in the arts in New York and Massachusetts and both states have funding available for smaller arts organizations and new projects. Pennsylvania focuses funding on large organizations with past operating budgets of over $200K. This doesn’t leave room for new organizations to grow. I’d like to see some arts funding that is either project-based or that is set aside for newer, growing arts organizations.”

-Marnie Ann Joyce, Pike County

“Eliminate or significantly lower school (property) tax for seniors receiving under $150,000 per year. It’s beyond a hardship for seniors on fixed incomes with the inflation over the past three years and the continued yearly tax increases. Please help us.”

-Robert R. Doan, Drums

“More money available for small communities around the state to repair old and failing water systems, and multiple steps to ensure our statewide groundwater remains clean and potable without billion dollar systems requiring expensive annual maintenance.”

-Beth, Bucks County

“Gov. Shapiro needs to work on property tax relief for seniors. We need a total revamp on how education is funded.”

-Jane Evans, Coventryville

“Expand the income bracket for real estate tax rebates. I make a little above the threshold but still need help with my taxes. I’m on a fixed income and because Lebanon County did a reassessment, my taxes tripled.”

-Susan Sheetz, Lebanon County

“You can never go wrong helping agriculture in this state. Also, funding for apprenticeships is always needed so we can continue to build this state.”

-Peter Deimler, Liverpool

“As a nurse, I would like to see money in the budget for nursing homes. They are woefully understaffed and the elderly are suffering. I had hoped that the Covid pandemic would have put more of a spotlight on how poorly nursing homes are run. We need laws regarding staffing ratios. The baby boomers are on their way into nursing homes for rehabilitation and end of life care.”

-Elizabeth, Wellsboro

“Money to bring Perry and Mastriano to justice.”

-Tom Gruver, Carlisle

“Rebuilding and reforming schools throughout the Philadelphia school district; expanding the universal school breakfast program to school lunch; more resources to support mental health initiatives; more property tax relief for seniors and working citizens.”

-Gina Williams, Philadelphia

“Prioritize: School breakfast for low income families; reduced tuition for in-state students at state universities; reduce charter school fees to public schools; reduce property taxes to low income residents; reduce public school dependence on property taxes, even if this means a small increase on the state income tax.”

-George Grossman, Allentown

“I believe his priorities should be as follows: 1. Tax relief for seniors, and decreased medication costs; 2. Stopping hunger in the commonwealth and reinstituting, and extending the school lunch program; 3. Increased mental health initiatives; 4. Improved interstate, roadways; and 5. Whole Home Repairs.”

-Elissa Waldron, Allentown

“State funding for libraries has always been a low priority for Pennsylvania governors except for the years Tom Ridge was governor. Pa. places extremely low among US states in library funding. Since libraries cater to everyone regardless of race, economic level, gender, education, etc., at no charge for most services, we must rely on government funding for a large part of our budgets. Where else in this country can you receive all the services you require for free or close to free but in the library?”

-Lynne Tharan, New Bethlehem

“I think the governor should reduce all taxes for the senior citizens. They have continued to pay high property taxes. They have paid their dues. Now allow them to live a little better life.”

-Joe Lagrua, Coudersport

“I would prioritize more resources to support mental health initiatives. In many cases this is the root of the problems relating to gun violence, depression, homelessness, and poverty. People with mental health issues may struggle to hold jobs which leads them into poverty, drugs, homelessness.”

-Laraine Mocenigo, Philadelphia

“Elementary education should be a priority. Our children are not getting the education they deserve and the teachers are overworked and underpaid. There is more mental illness, health issues, and violence in our schools than ever and less resources for our educators.”

-Shelly Shutt, Lansdale

“I love the fact that the budget is increasing for free breakfasts for children. My concern is property tax for seniors. I fully believe that when you either retire or become a specific age such as 70, you should no longer pay property taxes on your home. Taxes keep going up and up and many times it becomes difficult for seniors to afford the taxes. oftentimes having to go without food or medications in order to pay those taxes.”

-Barbara Henry, Hummelstown

“I am a retired nurse and worked for a large insurance company for 22 years. Mental Health care has been on the back burner far too long. Having been involved with mental health issues during my career I feel somewhat qualified to voice my opinion. I feel mental health care barely exists.”

-Marie Gaul, Philadelphia

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