Harkins lauds governor’s focus on education, career training, workers

ERIE, March 7 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget address today:

“As I listened to the governor outline his budget priorities, several messages resonated with me. The governor spoke about making a significant down payment on equitable public school funding. For decades, Erie students have been forced to compete with fewer resources than students in other parts of the state, all because the state has failed to commit a fair share of funding. I was encouraged to hear the governor recognize the need for a major investment in our public schools and a collective effort to devise a fairer system.

“As co-chair of the Early Childhood Education Caucus, I was also reassured to hear the governor speak about the importance of early learning and investment in programs like Pre-K Counts. A recent poll showed nearly all Pennsylvanians believe early education is important and that a majority support greater investments in these programs, which are so essential for giving kids the right start in life.

“At the other end of the educational spectrum, the governor outlined plans to invest more in career and tech ed. Erie’s labor force has been shrinking, and we have a growing skills gap we need to address. We can do that by expanding public-private workforce development programs that attract and equip young job seekers. With federal infrastructure dollars creating new projects and the promise of new employers relocating here, we will need a skilled pool of workers to fill those jobs and to continue attracting new business and industry to our region.

“On a related note, when it comes to building our work force, I strongly support the governor’s plans to raise the minimum wage and to address workforce shortages by offering tax breaks for those interested in becoming police, nurses and teachers.

“I heard the governor speak of the importance of protecting employees’ rights and hiring law compliance investors to ensure employers treat their employees with respect. I support that plan and also hope that under the new administration, we will finally bring Pennsylvania’s public-sector workers the same protections already afforded the state’s private-sector workers.

“Finally, I support the governor’s proposals to raise monthly SNAP benefit by 50%, provide universal free school breakfasts and expand the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we hammer out the details.”