Shapiro’s budget address calls for marijuana legalization and education and public transportation increases

Gov. Josh Shapiro delivers his budget address for the 2024-25 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate in the Rotunda of the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

By Sean Kitchen

February 6, 2024

The governor also wants to use the state’s $14 billion budget surplus to make environmental repairs in public school buildings, reform the state’s system of higher education, and boost public transportation funding.  

Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed an ambitious and historic budget during his second budget address at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday. 

The commonwealth sits on a $14 billion budget surplus and the governor wants to continue his “get shit done” attitude by reinvesting a chunk of that money into the commonwealth. 

“Now is the time to invest some of that $14 billion surplus squirreled away here in Harrisburg,” Shapiro told lawmakers. 

“It’s not a badge of honor, nor is it something to be politically proud of for some lawmakers out there to say: I took more money from the good people of Pennsylvania than I needed and then bragged about how I just kept it in some bank account here in the capitol.”

The governor’s proposed budget includes a $1.1 billion increase in basic education funding and critical reforms that would merge Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) with the network of community colleges. 

Pennsylvania is currently ranked 49th in the country when it comes to funding higher education and Shapiro’s proposal, a 15% increase in spending, would bring Pennsylvania in line with the rest of the country.

Shapiro’s education funding plan also includes $300 million in funding per year for the next five years, or a total of $1.5 billion, to make environmental repairs in public school buildings around the commonwealth. Pennsylvania has some of the oldest school buildings in the country and students and teachers are exposed to lead, asbestos and the weather.  

The governor also renewed his calls for legalizing adult-use cannabis. His proposal calls for legalizing recreational marijuana by July 1, 2024 and starting recreational sales by Jan. 1, 2025. He went on to call for the expunging the criminal records for those who have been arrested for possessing the substance.

Every one of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states with the exception of West Virginia have legalized adult-use cannabis, and Shapiro is hoping to legalize it due to the commonwealth losing tax dollars to those states. The governor is hoping marijuana revenue would generate $250 million annually once a market is up and running. 

Other priorities in Shapiro’s second budget include increasing support for public transportation across the commonwealth. The governor is proposing a $282.8 million increase this year, and a $1.5 billion increase over 5 years. This proposed funding comes as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is experiencing a $240 million budget deficit for the next year. 

The upcoming budget proposes $50 million for the Whole Home Repairs program, which provides grants for lower income households and smaller landlords to make weatherization and other improvements to their homes. The administration wants to make the program permanent going forward.

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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