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Shapiro highlights Pennsylvania budget priorities during county commissioners gathering

(Credit: Commonwealth Media Services)

John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
March 4, 2024

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro delivered an address to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) on Monday afternoon, highlighting the importance of their work while laying out his budget priorities.  

“County Commissioner is where the rubber meets the road,” said Shapiro, who served as the chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners from 2012-2016. “I just want you to know, I appreciate the work you do, I know how important the work you do is, and I salute the work you do.”

Shapiro said his administration aims to be a “complementary force” for CCAP and county commissioners and described the relationship between them as “unprecedented.” 

“Many ways the work we do is really nonpartisan,” Shapiro said, when discussing the impact of CCAP. “It’s just about delivering good services and delivering meaningful results to the people of your counties.”

With Pennsylvania in the spotlight for the upcoming presidential election, Shapiro thanked the county commissioners for managing the commonwealth’s elections. 

“It’s really important that we recognize the work you all did to uphold and safeguard our democracy in elections past,” Shapiro said. “Every year you do the critical work of running our elections, ensuring that they remain free and fair, safe and secure, not to dictate to people who they should vote for, but to make sure that their votes are counted properly, to make sure that the will of the people is respected in counties all across Pennsylvania.”

Fulton County may be ordered to pay the state hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal fees after the county allowed outsiders access to examine the voting machines after former President Donald Trump claimed there was fraud in the 2020 election.

Last week, Shapiro unveiled the Election Threats Security Task Force, which will be overseen by Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt and other officials, to combat misinformation and voter intimidation. Shapiro said he wants to partner with county commissioners in that effort. 

Schmidt, who was a Republican serving as a Philadelphia City Commissioner during the 2020 presidential election, received threats after Trump sent out a tweet about him by name. 

Shapiro said his first budget as governor delivered record investments on several initiatives such as economic development, indigent defense, mental health, education, and public safety, but made the case that more needs to be done in the Keystone State. 

“Now is a moment for us to invest,” he said. 

The governor highlighted priorities of his $48 billion budget proposal, which he unveiled last month.

Shapiro said that his budget would create jobs and grow the economies in communities that have been “left behind and too oftentimes shut out,” while specifically championing the economic development strategy his administration rolled out a few months ago as a “roadmap” to moving the state’s economy forward. 

“We are falling behind our neighboring states,” he said. “Places like Ohio, New York, and New Jersey. They all invest more in economic development than Pennsylvania does.”

When discussing these specific proposed investments to boost the economy, he pinpointed to a half billion dollar bond issue to develop industrial sites across the state, $25 million in Main Streets, and launching the Pennsylvania Regional Competitiveness Challenge

The speech drew applause when the governor discussed increasing funding for mental health services. 

“Counties I know are on the front lines of this and I know it’s one of your top priorities to secure more investments to meet the growing demand of those who are dealing with mental health challenges,” Shapiro said. “I hear you loud and clear when you say you don’t have enough and I’m ready to work with you to invest more money in county mental health services.”

His budget proposal includes $20 million more in mental health services. He said he wants to keep the 988 crisis hotline in operation and support more resources for walk-in mental health crisis centers.

Shapiro pledged more money for safety including funding for emergency dispatchers, the State Commissioners Fire and EMS Grant program, public defenders, and those facing eviction having access to legal counsel.

Shapiro also said that his budget proposal addresses housing needs, including an additional $50 million for the Whole Home Repairs Program, which assists low and moderate income homeowners with maintenance; increasing the cap on the Housing Trust Fund to $100 million over the next four years to build more affordable housing, and a $10 million increase in the homelessness assistance program.

While Shapiro has traveled the state promoting his budget proposal, Republicans in the state Legislature have claimed that Pennsylvania can’t afford it. Budget hearings are ongoing in Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.