PA House Democrats Shapiro’s Achilles’ Heel

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

The sun dawned over Penn’s Woods on the first day of July to find state government once again without a budget. It is the pre-eminent state constitutional requirement for the legislature to pass and the governor to sign a new budget by June 30th.

For the second time in his two years in office Governor Josh Shapiro has signed no budget by the constitutional deadline. To be fair he cannot sign legislation that has not been passed by the legislature and sent to his desk. But, for a governor claims to “get s— done” his hands off approach to budget negotiations is puzzling.

Perhaps he is gun shy after last year blowing up a budget deal he made with the Republican-controlled state Senate and triggering a months-long stalemate. Shapiro frequently mentions that he is the only governor in the country to govern with a divided legislature. (Republicans control the state Senate, Democrats have a one-seat majority in the state House.)

That should be seen as an opportunity to exercise executive leadership rather than be used as an excuse for failure. Instead, Shapiro spent considerable time last month RVing across the state to promote his new tourism slogan thus absenting himself from the Capitol.

All of this became significantly more important last week following President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate performance. The president’s condition was so shocking even far-Left pundits were calling for replacing him on the ticket when Democrats meet for their nominating convention next month.

That of course raises the question of if not Biden, then who? Vice President Kamala Harris has approval ratings even lower than those of the president. Her giggling, unserious demeanor reflects the fact she was placed on the ticket solely as a sacrifice to the identity politics gods at whose feet the Left worships. She cannot win in November either, so the backroom Democratic power brokers who will select a replacement will be looking elsewhere.

Which brings us back to Josh Shapiro. He is nothing if not ambitious and his desire to run for president has been thinly veiled. The Democrat Party bench is even thinner, so being governor of a critical battleground state makes Shapiro a contender for either the presidential or the vice presidential nomination.

But how do you run for president when you can’t even get a state budget done on time? Last year’s budget fiasco was his own fault for breaking a deal with Senate Republicans to fund a very small Lifeline Scholarship program to give students in the state’s most underperforming schools other education options.

Here is Shapiro’s real problem: state House Democrats. As mentioned, Democrats hold a razor thin one seat majority in the lower chamber. With most of their members representing urban districts the Democrat caucus has tilted far Left. And they have used that position to pass a steady stream of messaging bills that stand no chance of being considered in the Senate.

Shapiro broke his word on last year’s budget deal because House Majority Leader Matt Bradford refused to bring the budget to the floor for a vote unless the governor agreed to line item veto funding for the Lifeline Scholarship program. Bradford is controlled by powerful state teacher unions who would rather trap minority students in failing schools than give those kids an opportunity for success.

This year funding for education is again the main sticking point. Democrats, including Shapiro, want to pour billions more into government schools with no accountability for outcomes while refusing to allocate even a modest amount of funding to give students other options.

State coffers are flush with a $14 billion surplus, so Shapiro and House Democrats are pushing for massive increases in state spending – without addressing how those higher levels of spending will be sustained when the surplus is gone. The Senate took a different approach passing a reduction in the state’s personal income tax to give taxpayers suffering the effect of over 20% cumulative inflation the past three years some relief.

Bradford and House Democrats remain the stumbling block. If the Lifeline Scholarship program and/or the proposed reduction in state tax rates were brought to the floor for a vote they would pass with bi-partisan support clearing the way for passage of the budget.

As the leader of his party, it is Shapiro’s job to get a budget deal done. He has not. His failure to curb the extremism of state House Democrats is the main reason why. And that is a speedbump, if not a roadblock, on his quest for national office.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly American Radio Journal and Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)

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