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Shapiro hints education, economy will get top billing in Pennsylvania budget proposal

Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania's Democratic nominee for governor, speaks to the crowd during a campaign event at Adams County Democratic Party headquarters, Sept. 17, 2022, in Gettysburg, Pa.
Marc Levy
Josh Shapiro said Wednesday he wants to boost funding by 25% for computer science and STEM education through the PA Smart Program.

On the campaign trail and early in his term, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro has voiced his ambitions to make the state more economically competitive. During a Wednesday visit in Pittsburgh, he hinted at how he wants to finance that vision.

He said when he proposes his first state budget on Tuesday, he will include significant spending increases for two academic initiatives that aim to encourage innovation.

The Manufacturing PA Innovation Program funds university research to modernize operations at factories across the Keystone State. Shapiro said Wednesday he will propose increasing its budget by 50%.

“This will be cutting-edge research done by Pennsylvania students spurring on job creation right here in Pennsylvania,” the Democrat told reporters after he toured space company Astrobotic’s North Side headquarters.

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Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community Development awarded $2.4 million through the manufacturing innovation program to universities throughout the state.

Shapiro also said Wednesday he wants to boost funding by 25% for computer science and STEM education through the PA Smart Program. In 2018, the state dedicated a $30 million grant investment to the workforce development initiative.

“That's millions more you'll see in my budget for students and millions invested in their future and their success, and showing that connection between the work they do and the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro declined to disclose additional details about his forthcoming budget proposal.

Research shows the state lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to turning research at institutions of higher education into broad-based employment gains.

Shapiro cited Astrobotic as a counterexample. He noted the business is on track to build a staff of nearly 100 workers in southwestern Pennsylvania. Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said Wednesday the company plans to send a lunar lander to the moon in May. The spacecraft will transport cargo in the first commercial mission to the moon.