Our State Budget Deserves Better

By Representative Tarik Khan - As printed in East Falls Forward and The Chestnut Hill Local

On July 5th, my House colleagues and I traveled back to Harrisburg to vote “yes” to pass the state budget. The budget is an excellent opportunity to make significant investments in our community.

As a graduate of K-12 Philadelphia public schools, education is a top priority for me and my Democratic caucus. We advocated and voted to pass historic education funding. $1 billion of the $45.5 billion budget will go to our K-12 schools. $100 million of this funding will be to “level up” our most underfunded schools. We added $125 million to help improve school facility safety. And all students, regardless of income, will receive universal free breakfast because of this budget, so no child in our public schools has to learn on an empty stomach. Well-nourished students perform better in school, and students who perform better in school get better jobs. No child will have the stigma of receiving breakfast at school because of their family’s income—all kids will receive this and will be more likely to eat these nutrient-rich meals. 

While visiting over 15,000 residences in our community during my campaign to be your state representative, I saw first-hand the need to support neighbors on a fixed income. For the first time in our state’s history, our budget secures state funding for the Whole Home Repair program—$50 million to help neighbors with safety repairs and accessibility modifications for their homes. This budget funds nearly $67 million to subsidize childcare for low-income families. And our budget will help 850 families of individuals with autism or intellectual disability with money for critical services to get off the waiting list.

Our budget will help make our neighborhood safer. In addition to direct investments in school and community programs, $40 million will go to violence intervention and prevention programs, $20 million to mental health services support, and over $16 million to train and support our state troopers with safer staffing. And it will allow thousands of vital community non-profits continue to operate.

Finally, our budget invests in our economic future. It includes nearly $30 million in workforce training initiatives, including apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. Also, millions will go to a Schools to Work program that will help blaze career paths for high school students to potential employers and help ensure students are going into careers they will be well-suited for and enjoy.

Simply put, our budget deal is a good deal. It’s will make schools safer & more effective, provide help for working families, help keep older adults in their homes and build safer communities.

Unfortunately, many of the things we advocated for were not included in the budget—millions for school facilities and solar for schools projects, significant investments in our environmental protection agency, and funding to help increase wages for direct support providers for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

But this budget is the product of compromise.

With a Democratic House and a Republican Senate, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had to sacrifice some critical priorities. Despite both the House and Senate passing the budget weeks ago, we are now waiting for the Senate Republican leadership to do the clerical duty of signing the budget so Governor Shapiro can add his signature to make it official. However, as of this date, Senate Republican leadership is holding up this process.

The Democratic House leadership, and several Republican colleagues voted for this budget because we believe the finished product will help our community. But the longer Senate Republicans delay, the harder it will be for agencies relying on state funding to survive. Like Unity Recovery, a local pillar that helps with recovery and preventing overdoses in our region, which may be forced to make hard decisions about what critical services are available to our community if the Senate Republicans do not sign the budget.   

So what’s left to do?

Free the budget. Again, the Senate must present the budget to Governor Shapiro. And the Governor has already said he would sign it as soon as he receives it.

There are so many great things in this budget—critical funding for programs for schools, older adults, mental health, first responders, community safety and people across the commonwealth. The Senate must end this manufactured crisis so our state can move forward.