In a night of surprises—with the American people once again defying pollsters and the media—one result didn’t surprise us: Pennsylvania is a mess. Everything pointed to election night chaos: judicial shenanigans; Gov. Wolf’s willingness to use those courts to circumvent duly enacted election law; and Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s pre-election claim that Trump cannot win in Pennsylvania.
This election has sucked all the oxygen out of the room for too long. It’s a sign that the government in Washington, D.C. has grown way beyond its constitutional bounds. But when it comes to day-to-day life, what happens in Harrisburg is usually more important than what happens (or—more often—doesn’t happen) in the nation’s capital.
And so, as we wait to see who wins Pennsylvania—and likely the White House—here are some key issues to keep in mind.
Education. Many Pennsylvania children have not set foot in their schools since Gov. Wolf closed them on March 13. But there are negative consequences of lost learning, and there’s compelling evidence that schools are not drivers of COVID-19 transmission. Families should have access to education dollars to seek an education alternative if their school is not meeting their needs right now. And since we know kids’ education has already been harmed, Back on Track education grants should be passed to help families deal with new education expenses.
Budget. In June, lawmakers only passed a partial budget to give them more time to see the effects of the coronavirus disruptions. They need to pass a new budget by the end of this month. Fortunately, revenues have been coming in stronger than expected. Rather than increase taxes to deal with any shortfalls, lawmakers should privatize liquor; lease the turnpike; reduce line items for services not delivered during the shutdown; and transfer shadow budget reserve funds. Pennsylvania’s budget woes existed before the pandemic. The state must adopt budgetary reforms to ensure we’re in a better financial position moving forward.
Regulations. According to the Mercatus Center, Pennsylvania has the 11th-highest number of regulatory restrictions, with almost 163,000 rules. These regulations are particularly harmful for small businesses. As we work to recover from the COVID-19 economic woes, streamlining this regulatory burden would help businesses rebuild and put Pennsylvanians back to work. Thankfully, current legislative efforts are focused on three ways to reduce the state regulations to improve our business climate and unleash economic growth.
Sooner or later, we will know the outcome of this election—and it’s out of our hands at this point. But the pressing issues that we face in Pennsylvania will remain. We need to keep the pressure on lawmakers and Gov. Wolf to ensure they enact policies that will put our commonwealth on a more stable path.