Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro stated Monday that he has a list of unfinished items for the Pennsylvania Legislature, including passing a voucher program for private schools, raising the minimum wage and approvating bills to reduce gun violence.
Shapiro said that he also wants lawmakers to remove the limitations which prevent adult victims of childhood sex assaults from suing their attackers and institutions.
Shapiro stated that “I view this as unfinished work, along side raising the minimum wage and passing reforms to statute of limitations, as well as doing something about gun violence within our communities.”
The governor has said that he will focus on addressing the court ruling which found Pennsylvania discriminates unconstitutionally against the poorest districts of schools.
Shapiro acknowledged repeatedly, while speaking at a Pennsylvania Press Club Luncheon, that he has to contend with a divided political legislature.
He hopes that his next budget, due early in February, will include additional money for public education and a bipartisan funding formula. This idea is dependent in part on the Basic Education Funding Commission. The commission is made up of both partisan and gubernatorial nominees.
Shapiro stated, “I asked that they finish their work around January 1 so that I could announce in my next Budget both a bipartisan formula and increased funding for the public education.”
In February, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that the state’s system of funding public school districts discriminates unconstitutionally against the poorest district.
Republican legislators, however, have refused to approve the billions in funding that public school advocates claim is necessary to correct disparities. Shapiro didn’t propose a dollar amount to fix the disparities on Monday.
Shapiro’s first budget, signed last summer, increased aid to public schools by about $600 million or 7%. This was far less than the billions of dollars that many Democratic legislators and public school advocates wanted.
The governor instead tried to convince Democrats to support the Republican proposal of sending $100 million in school supplies and tuition to families.
Shapiro then backed down in the face of opposition from House Democrats. His support left supporters optimistic that it will become law. He is also the only Democratic Governor to be willing to support vouchers.
As for the rest of Shapiro’s agenda, agreements are nowhere in sight between the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House.
The Senate took no action on the House-approved measure to increase the minimum wage from $10 to $15 per hour, or on Democratic measures to reduce gun trafficking, shootings, suicides, and everyday violence.
Senate Republicans blocked attempts to allow adult victims of sexual abuse in childhood to sue the perpetrators. Republicans have tied that initiative to their other priorities including expanding voter ID requirements.