This article is shared with LebTown by content partner Spotlight PA.
By Kate Huangpu of Spotlight PA
HARRISBURG — During his run for governor, Josh Shapiro was boosted by his reputation as a deal-making coalition-builder. That standing ran into a different reality during the Democrat’s first year in office.
In February, Spotlight PA began tracking Shapiro’s progress on promises he made during the campaign or in the early days of his governorship, using the following criteria:
- Shapiro emphasized them during his run for governor;
- Passing them would require collaboration with the legislature;
- Or they could bring different factions of his supporters into conflict.
To deliver on many promises, Shapiro must get the Democratic-led state House and GOP-controlled state Senate to collaborate. That relationship deteriorated this summer after Republicans in the upper chamber accused Shapiro of reneging on a budget deal because of Democratic objections.
One year in, this is where Shapiro stands on key promises.
Against a backdrop of rising inflation and increased costs of living, Shapiro emphasized lowering consumer prices for Pennsylvanians. These goals largely remain unfinished.
Promise: To lower costs for consumers, Shapiro promised to eliminate an 11% sales tax on cell phone services and enact a $250 gas tax refund for every personal passenger car registered in the state for up to four cars per household.
Status: Shapiro has not been presented with a bill that would adopt these goals.
State Rep. Ben Waxman (D., Philadelphia) introduced in May a bill that would eliminate the cell phone tax, and the chamber passed it unanimously. The state Senate has not considered the bill, which Waxman said he introduced independently and without consulting Shapiro.
Promise: Shapiro emphasized raising the state’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage rate to $15 an hour on the campaign trail, saying that it “needs” to be done.
Status: In his first budget address to the legislature, Shapiro asked state lawmakers to “work with me to finally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”
A bill that would do that by 2026, sponsored by state Reps. Patty Kim (D., Dauphin) and Jason Dawkins (D., Philadelphia), passed the state House in a 103-100 vote. The state Senate has not voted on the bill.
In the upper chamber, Republican state Sen. Dan Laughlin of Erie has introduced legislation with the same goal. It was referred to a committee in May but has not been considered.
Laughlin declined to tell Spotlight PA whether Shapiro has been involved in conversations with his caucus about the measure.
State Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R., Indiana) said he is open to raising the minimum wage, but thinks $15 an hour is not “a practical number.”
Promise: Pennsylvania has one of the highest corporate net income taxes — paid by businesses that are headquartered in the state and based on their total profits — in the U.S. Shapiro wants to lower the state’s CNIT to 4% by 2025 to attract more businesses to the state.
Status: In his budget address, Shapiro said the state needs to continue lowering the CNIT. He didn’t include a formal pitch to do so in this year’s budget proposal, however, simply laying out a timeline that the state had enacted in 2022, which is set to lower the tax to 4.99% by 2031.
Shapiro signed the main budget bill into law this summer, but that doesn’t mean a CNIT change can’t still happen. Any change to the rate at which the tax is lowered would come in a code bill. These measures provide instructions for how money should be spent, but thanks to a legislative deadlock, Shapiro has yet to be presented with any.
Several have been pitched. One bill, introduced by state Rep. Tim Briggs (D., Montgomery), includes language that would lower the CNIT to 4.99% by 2026 rather than the current schedule of 2031.
However, the proposal also includes other Democratic priorities that have received pushback from state Senate Republicans. Among them: mandated combined reporting for companies that are headquartered out of state, to capture more of their income in-state for tax purposes.
The tax code passed the state House in early October along party lines. Pittman called the bill “a step in the right direction,” but has not said whether he would call the bill for a vote in his chamber.
Energy and the environment
Throughout his campaign and first year in office, Shapiro has maintained that the choice between protecting the environment and supporting the energy industry is a false dichotomy.
Shapiro has vocally supported bringing a new industry to the state: hydrogen production. Supporters tout hydrogen as a clean-burning fuel, though environmental advocates caution that it can be produced in ways that are just as bad for the environment as fossil fuels, or even worse.
Promise: On his campaign website, Shapiro said he would raise Pennsylvania’s 2030 target for renewable or clean electricity production from the current goal of 8% to 30%.
He said he would do so by changing the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act to require that companies selling energy to the commonwealth’s Public Utilities Commission include a higher percentage of energy from renewable resources. Currently, the requirement is between 8% and 10%, depending on the kind of energy source.
Status: Shapiro has not been presented with a bill that would adopt this goal, though such legislation has been introduced in the state House and Senate.
Democrats in both chambers have introduced bills that would increase the renewable energy target to 30%. The legislation was also introduced under former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
State Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware) said he plans to hold a public hearing on his chamber’s version of the bill this month; as of Dec. 1, no hearing had been announced.
State Sen. Pat Stefano (R., Bedford), who chairs the committee to which the bill is assigned in the upper chamber, did not commit to bringing up the bill for consideration. In a statement, Stefano said it “is difficult to determine what a future energy policy could look like” as the state grapples with other questions like whether to remain in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an interstate program that places a cap on carbon emissions in the power sector.
Promise: Shapiro said he would put Pennsylvania on track to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Status: According to the Department of Environmental Protection, greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania come primarily from three sectors: industrial manufacturing, transportation, and electricity production.
Shapiro has never specified how he plans to meet this goal, but he has directed his administration to work toward a few pursuits that could reduce emissions, and he has been bolstered by a recent influx in federal funds.
The Democrat supports the construction of hydrogen hubs in Eastern and Western Pennsylvania, which the federal Department of Energy plans to help fund with up to $2 billion.
Shapiro has touted hydrogen as a clean energy alternative that will reduce emissions, as burning it does not produce greenhouse gases. Exactly how green hydrogen is depends on how it is produced. Environmental advocates have noted that one of the hubs plans to use methane — which traps more heat than carbon dioxide — in the production process. This hub also plans to use carbon capture technology but has not released details, including how much of its emitted carbon will be captured.
“Those who are attacking this project, they’re standing in the way of real progress,” Shapiro said at an event in Philadelphia. “Clean energy progress is going to be good for our environment, good for job creation.”
Shapiro also supports implementing some sort of cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions.
But he has not backed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI.
His administration has appealed a Commonwealth Court decision that blocks the state from participating in the program, though Shapiro’s office emphasized it was doing so to protect executive authority.
Shapiro has not said whether he would stay in the program if the state Supreme Court overturns the earlier decision and allows Pennsylvania to participate in RGGI.
The Department of Environmental Protection has also plugged over 100 abandoned or orphaned wells since the beginning of the year, thanks in part to increased funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Unplugged wells can emit methane, a major pollutant.
Justice system and public safety
During his campaign, Shapiro walked the line between supporting law enforcement and advocating for some “data-driven” changes to policing. He also backed policies like stricter gun control and funding for indigent defense, though enacting those ideas has proved difficult.
Promise: Shapiro “pledged to help hire 2,000 more police officers across the Commonwealth.”
Status: In an October news release, the Shapiro administration announced a grant was available to “support the recruitment of approximately 2,000 new full-time law enforcement officers.”
The grant is managed by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and is open to law enforcement agencies. Agencies can request up to $7,000 per new officer for training costs, support stipends, signing bonuses, or marketing efforts.
The Local Law Enforcement Support Grant launched in 2022 under Wolf.
Last month, Shapiro also created the Pennsylvania Citizen Law Enforcement Advisory and Review Commission through an executive order. According to the administration it marks a continuation of police oversight work Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration started in 2020 under a separate commission.
The new group, it said, includes law enforcement experts and criminal justice reform advocates, and will review completed internal investigations in state law enforcement bodies and make public recommendations to those bodies. These include the Pennsylvania State Police, the state Capitol Police, and Department of Corrections.
Promise: Shapiro said he would include a line item for an indigent defense fund in his first budget.
Status: In his budget pitch to the legislature, Shapiro proposed spending $10 million to fund public defense. The legislature approved $7.5 million for it in the general budget bill Shapiro signed earlier this year.
However, the funding can’t go out the door until lawmakers approve additional language in a code bill, which is not guaranteed.
This code bill delay stems from tension over the passage of the initial spending plan, which involved Shapiro vetoing a school choice program that Republicans had championed — a move state Senate leaders saw as Shapiro reneging on a commitment to them.
Promise: On his campaign website, Shapiro said he supported programs to allow incarcerated people to apply for geriatric parole and supported expunging the records of those serving time for nonviolent marijuana convictions.
Status: Shapiro has not been presented with a bill that would adopt either of these goals, though relevant legislation has been introduced in various forms in the state House and Senate.
A bill that would make prisoners eligible for medical parole in the case of age or illness passed through a state House committee. In the state Senate, a similar bill has been introduced but has not gotten through committee. A bipartisan measure has also been introduced in the upper chamber to expunge nonviolent marijuana convictions — along with legalizing recreational use of the drug — and has similarly not moved from committee.
Promise: Shapiro supports a host of gun control policies. In May 2022, he vowed, “We’re going to close the ghost gun loophole. We’re going to enact universal background checks. We’re going to finally pass red flag laws in Pennsylvania.”
Status: Shapiro has not been presented with legislation that would achieve any of those three goals.
Ghost guns, unserialized weapons made by purchasing parts of firearms that do not require background checks and assembling them, are not subject to the same regulations as other guns — making them untraceable. Proposals to ban such weapons or increase regulations have been introduced but not received a vote in either chamber.
The state House has passed a bill that would expand background checks for all firearms. It currently sits in the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
The House has also passed legislation that would expand background checks to include more kinds of guns and create extreme risk protection orders that allow judges to temporarily withhold guns from people experiencing a mental health crisis. Shapiro spoke at a news conference in June in support of the legislation.
The state Senate, however, has not taken up the legislation and appears unlikely to do so.
Election security became a central issue after the 2020 election when former President Donald Trump made false claims of widespread voter fraud. During his campaign, Shapiro emphasized his work combatting lawsuits that attempted to overturn the election and framed his victory as a rejection of radicalism.
Shapiro signaled during his campaign that he would be willing to consider some Republican priorities, such as expanding voter ID, to pass a comprehensive election bill. However, no such bills have been able to gain traction in the state legislature.
Promise: Shapiro said he will sign legislation that allows counties to begin tabulating mail ballots before Election Day, a process known as pre-canvassing that is common in states with widespread mail voting.
Status: Shapiro has not been presented with legislation that would achieve this goal.
Promise: Shapiro said he would increase voting access. On his campaign website, he said he would sign bills that establish automatic voter registration, allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote, and expand a ban on firearms at some polling places.
Status: In September, Shapiro directed the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to enact a form of automatic voter registration. Eligible voters are now automatically taken through the voter registration process while getting a driver’s license unless they opt out.
Shapiro has not been presented with legislation that would achieve the other goals.
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