Merski: Governor’s budget priorities will move us forward

HARRISBURG, March 7 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget address:

“As a former teacher, I was encouraged to hear Gov. Shapiro talk about his commitment to fair education funding. Last year’s historic budget investment in our public schools was a great starting point, but it is going to take a sustained, large-scale investment to achieve the kind of overhaul needed after years of underfunding.

“With the recent Commonwealth Court decision declaring Pennsylvania’s public school funding unconstitutional, there can be no clearer mandate: Now is the time to fix Pennsylvania’s public schools and ease the burden on local taxpayers by demanding the state finally make the commitment our students deserve.

“Beyond funding for academic resources to level the playing field, other aspects of our schools need attention – many are literally falling apart. I was encouraged to hear the governor speak about the need to repair our aging school buildings. I recently introduced legislation with several colleagues that would make it possible for school districts to address hazards like poor ventilation, peeling paint, leaky roofs, structural defects and other problems posed by dilapidated facilities.

“The governor also expressed his commitment to increasing funding for community revitalization, and I strongly support this aspect of his agenda. We have seen the power of these investments to attract new businesses; create productive, mixed-used spaces that draw visitors; and generate new jobs in distressed areas. Additional investments of these kinds will build on that momentum and on our work to fight blight and expand affordable housing.

“Finally, I support the governor’s call for greater investment in child care for working parents and caregivers; his proposal to expand the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program so that it can help more seniors and disabled residents remain in their homes; and his plan to invest in additional resources and greater compensation for our first responders.

“Of course, the governor painted a broad picture today, and it will be up to us to hammer out the details. I’m optimistic, however, that the priorities he outlined will move us in the right direction.”