Feb. 12, 2024

Legislative Update
The latest news from the State Capitol
Please do not reply directly to this email, as it returns to an unmanned account.
You are welcome to contact me through this link
Governor’s Proposed $48 Billion Budget More Than PA Can Afford

The 2024-25 state budget process got underway last week when Gov. Josh Shapiro delivered his budget address before a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday. His $48.34 billion proposal represents an increase of $3.7 billion, or 8.4%, over the current year’s spending.

I appreciate the governor’s enthusiasm to make Pennsylvania more competitive. My concern is how he plans to balance this increased spending without draining the Rainy Day Fund or opening up the door to tax increases. Some of the revenue projections he cited are simply unrealistic. Key issues like education and Medicaid funding, along with the proposed higher education funding changes, need close scrutiny. Gov. Shapiro’s proposal to limit the Legislature’s input from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority vote, when putting tax dollars into for-profit colleges and universities, lacks transparency and accountability.

The more we allow state spending to grow out of control, the harder it becomes to reign in. The budget proposal included over $2.5 billion in new government spending for expanding or creating more government programs. Broken programs do not need more funding but rather solutions to fix their existing shortcomings. Spending more will not fix existing problems. This budget proposal reverses past House Republican efforts to build a balance in the Rainy Day Fund to address any future economic downturns, and entirely avoids the practice of fiscal responsibility.

What was not addressed was the governor’s plan or ability to cut through the partisan gridlock in the House and get the House back to work. Remember, the Republicans do not control the calendar. We are 37 days into the year, and this was the House of Representatives’ first session day of 2024. We are a full-time Legislature, but there still hasn’t been any voting sessions and no legislation has been debated. We dealt with partisan gridlock last year and “mostly finished” the 2023 budget this past December – six months late.

Under a Republican majority in prior sessions, during the months of January and February, the House had 10 voting session days in 2021 and nine voting session days in 2022. Under a Democrat majority, there were only two voting session days in January and February of 2023 and now none this year.

Fortunately, the budget address is just the beginning of the budgetary process. Over the course of the next few months, members from both sides of the aisle will work vigilantly through this proposal to find the best outcomes for our Commonwealth of today and the future.
Thank You for Participating in My Telephone Town Hall

Last week, I hosted my first telephone town hall. Judging by the call volume and questions, I believe everyone who participated was engaged, enthusiastic and hopefully left with more information about what is going on in our district and what I am doing in Harrisburg for you. We had a great discussion about local issues and concerns in the district, as well as the issues that are happening in Harrisburg and on a national level. I plan to conduct more of these in the future. We can keep the format to open questions, or the calls can be a specific topic or guest expert. If there is something you want to learn more about, call my office and let us know – these telephone town halls are for you and I want to make sure that we are using our time wisely.
Preparing Pennsylvania to Navigate AI

With the use of artificial intelligence (AI) expanding quickly, state House Republicans are committed to navigating the challenges and maximizing the opportunities it may present.

House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler announced the formation of an Artificial Intelligence Opportunity Task Force, and I was appointed to serve alongside some of my colleagues. The task force is charged with engaging experts and stakeholders to inform future legislative policy decisions relating to AI, including the human-centric ethical development of this emerging technology, along with appropriate safeguards.

The also Republican Policy Committee also hosted a hearing last week to enhance members’ understanding of how AI technology works in our everyday lives and to discuss how to ensure the responsible use and advancement of the evolving technology. Testifiers included officials with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, IBM, TechNet and ChatGPT.

While there is a societal component to how families interact with AI technology, we also need to talk about how Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to be a leader in AI technology development – especially when we consider our universities are producing students entering the workforce, the rich natural gas production in our state for energy consumption and in using our land for economic development. My role on this task force will be about successfully steering Pennsylvania through the potential pitfalls of AI while using the technology to make Pennsylvania a leader.

More information about the hearing is available at www.PAGOPPolicy.com.