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Shapiro aims tax break at police officers, teachers, nurses

Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia, Feb. 16, 2023.
Matt Rourke
FILE - Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia, Feb. 16, 2023. Shapiro will propose a three-year incentive of up to $2,500 a year for newly certified teachers, cops and nurses in Pennsylvania when the Democrat unveils his budget plan on Tuesday, March 7, administration officials said.

Saying Pennsylvania is in the midst of a workforce crisis, Gov. Josh Shapiro said he will propose a three-year incentive of up to $2,500 a year for newly certified teachers, police officers and nurses when the Democrat unveils his budget plan on Tuesday.

The incentive is a tax credit designed to help address complaints from school boards, police departments and hospitals about the growing difficulty in filling critical positions in public safety, health and education, administration officials said.

“The trend lines on all three of these are getting worse," Shapiro said Friday during a regularly scheduled appearance on KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh. “So I think if we don’t act now, these numbers are just going to go up, and when I say 'up' I mean in a bad way.”

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Much of Shapiro's forthcoming budget proposal remains under wraps, and any new tax credit will require approval from the politically divided Legislature.

Under the proposal, the tax credit would apply to new certifications issued starting in 2023, and could be included on a newly certified worker's tax return starting in 2024. The state would mail a check back to someone whose certification qualifies, administration officials said.

Those eligible could receive the tax credit each year for the first three years after they get the certification from the state.

People who newly move to Pennsylvania with a state-recognized credential in one of those three fields also would be eligible for it, administration officials said.

The amount of the tax credit would be on a sliding scale, depending on how much someone earned, administration officials said.

They estimated that it could cost the state almost $25 million, based on the three-year average of nearly 15,000 people a year getting certified in the eligible three professions. The state is currently operating on a $42.8 billion budget, and has about $11 billion in surplus cash in the bank, giving Shapiro a cushion to propose new spending priorities.

Police departments have seen applications drop dramatically over the past few years, Shapiro has said. The commission that oversees the training and certification of municipal police officers found more than 1,200 officer vacancies in a survey of just one-third of the state's accredited law enforcement agencies last year.

On the campaign trail, Shapiro had promised to help police departments recruit 2,000 more police officers.

The state's largest teachers' union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, has blamed a shortage of teachers on a steep drop in the number of college graduates entering the profession. It has asked the state to fund a plan to set minimum salaries at $60,000 a year for teachers, school counselors and nurses.

Meanwhile, the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania said a survey of 70 hospitals in November found that one-third of registered nurse positions were vacant, a sharp increase over levels before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association has asked for the state to make it easier for nurses to get licensed, to help make health care education cheaper and more accessible and to relax regulations that make it harder to focus on innovation, telehealth and patient care.