News & Brews February 7, 2024

Get News & Brews in your inbox each day: Subscribe here!

Shapiro pitches big spending hike, Rainy Day fund depletion, cuts to school choice

In his budget address yesterday, Gov. Shapiro proposed using billions of dollars from the state’s Rainy Day fund to pay for billions in new spending. Meanwhile, he proposed cutting funding for cyber charter schools (which, reminder, are public schools), giving more than $1 billion in new spending to traditional public schools, throwing hundreds of millions more into public transit, legalizing recreational marijuana, and raising the minimum wage. His proposed $48.3 billion spending plan is a 7.1% increase over the previous year. And by using Rainy Day funds for his new recurring spending, Shapiro is setting the stage for future tax hikes. As PennLive put it, “Shapiro insisted his budget, about $3 billion out of balance, is appropriate given the large surpluses in the state treasury.” You can read the prepared text of Shapiro’s budget address here. And click here for more House GOP responses and here for the Senate GOP response.

A short history of budget addresses … by length

Gov. Shapiro’s budget address yesterday, as prepared, clocked in at 11,141 words—the longest by word count going back to 2006 (which is the first year for which PennLive gathered data for this research task). By time, Shapiro’s speech—at 86 minutes and 31 seconds—was also the longest going back to 2006.

Op-Ed: Before fixing college, Shapiro should fix K-12 system

Just ahead of Gov. Shapiro’s budget address, Commonwealth Foundation Vice President Stephen Bloom wrote in PennLive that while Shapiro has proposed overhauling higher education, this carries little benefit if kids remain trapped in failing K-12 schools. “Interestingly,” Steve writes, “Shapiro’s vague college plan shares some philosophical similarities to school choice. The governor wants to increase grants for students enrolling in Pennsylvania’s public and private institutions. Shapiro’s proposed plan will help students afford not only Pennsylvania’s public state-owned colleges but also its state-related and private colleges. This sounds a lot like a ‘lifeline’ [scholarships] for college students.” Before jumping to fix higher ed, Shapiro should “help Pennsylvania kids escape failing, violent schools.”

Senate hearing today on state data deletion

The Pa. Senate Communications and Technology Committee & Senate State Government Committee will hold a joint public hearing this afternoon at 2:00 pm on the recent deletion of data from state servers due to “human error.” The data deletion impacted information from the State Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania State Police. Scheduled to testify are Office of Administration’s (OA) Secretary Neal Weaver, as well as OA’s Chief Information Officer and Chief Information Security Officer. The hearing will be live streamed here.

House hearing today on the future of AI

The Pa. House Republican Policy Committee will hold a hearing this morning at 10:00 a.m. on “navigating the future of AI.” The hearing is intended “to increase our understanding of how artificial intelligence technology works in our everyday lives and to discuss how to ensure the responsible use and advancement of the evolving technology.” Testifiers include “Charles Palmer, associate professor and program lead of interactive media, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology; Madison Gooch, vice president, watsonx, IBM; Margaret Durkin, executive director – PA and the Mid-Atlantic Region, TechNet; and, for the first time, ChatGPT.” The hearing will be live streamed here.

Sign up to get News & Brews in your inbox