Opinion: Harrisburg Republicans’ Budget Surplus Flip-Flop Reveals True Priorities

Harrisburg republicans

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, speaks at a news conference in the Capitol after Gov. Josh Shapiro delivered his budget address for the 2024-25 fiscal year in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

By Angela Valvano

May 9, 2024

Harrisburg Republicans have spent years honing a simple political strategy that could be described as oppose, pander, and negotiate in bad faith. This well-worn approach was evident once again in February, when Governor Shapiro proposed using some of the state’s $14 billion surplus to fund schools, services, and investments in families and communities. As if on cue, the Republicans cried foul, declaring such use of the surplus as reckless and unrealistic.

Republican leaders and conservative lobbying groups spent months arguing these funds weren’t available to fix problems for Pennsylvanians. The surplus, they insisted, was untouchable, in spite of the glaring needs of our communities. However, this week, we witnessed a dramatic about-face.

Without warning, they backed a Personal Income Tax (PIT) cut proposal that would wipe out the budget surplus by 2028 and would account for lost revenue this coming year that is more than double what Gov. Shapiro proposed for K-12 public education next year. Because the PIT is a flat tax, most of the benefit would flow to the richest Pennsylvanians.

Was this blatant pander to donors and conservative interest groups a strategic blunder after months of singing a different tune? Or was it an admission that they are fighting a losing battle against an incredibly popular governor?

Either way, Senate Republicans couldn’t be making their priorities more clear. And next, they’ll move on to negotiating the budget in bad faith.

Governor Shapiro has been tireless in his campaign to put the surplus to work for the people of Pennsylvania. He has made a compelling argument that we could resolve the unconstitutional underfunding of public schools and colleges, make urgent investments in local economies and services, and still have $11 billion left in the reserves. He has refused to concede the debate to the same old partisan cynics in Harrisburg who only have excuses for why they haven’t fixed Pennsylvania’s problems.

Senate Republicans this week revealed their true colors. They celebrated their plan to divert money earmarked by the Governor for public schools, housing, debt relief, and communities and channel it to their wealthiest backers. Their abrupt pivot on the use of the surplus has weakened their hand significantly in upcoming negotiations. The argument is now firmly centered on how the legislature will spend those funds, not whether they can spend them.

While Governor Shapiro and the House Democratic majority are working to uplift communities and invest in the future, Senate Republicans have chosen to double down on the same old tired policies that benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else.

Their newfound and hypocritical eagerness to use the budget surplus exposes their true motives. But at least now everyone in Harrisburg agrees – the state has the funds to make priority investments.

While our schools and our main streets cannot wait any longer for critical investments – and Governor Shapiro’s budget proposal would be a game-changer for our communities – Republicans left Harrisburg for a month-long vacation after voting to steal those taxpayer dollars and drop it in the pockets of wealthy Pennsylvanians.

It’s time to hold Senate Republicans accountable and demand real solutions that prioritize the needs of all Pennsylvanians, not just the wealthy few.



  • Angela Valvano

    A lifelong Western Pennsylvanian, Angela Valvano has spent her career organizing and advocating for community concerns in roles both internationally and domestically. As Executive Director of Better PA, she leads the fight for policies that put the Commonwealth's working families first.


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