During the campaign season, Shapiro rightfully stood firm in opposing the radical agenda put forward by Mastriano and other politicians who cling to the flag, while working to curtail the very freedoms it is supposed to stand for: the freedom to vote, the freedom to worship (or not) as we choose to, the freedom to decide when and how to start a family. Time and again, we've seen a majority of Pennsylvanians stand up to protect those freedoms: from the massive rallies in 2020 to stop former-President Donald Trump's efforts to overthrow the will of the people to the mobilizations again this summer to defend access to abortion healthcare. While the February 7 special election will determine who has control of the state house, there's no doubt that Shapiro will have his work cut out for him to defend the will of the majority against Mastriano-style proposals that may wind through the state legislature.
Voters are expecting Shapiro to do more than just play defense in office, though. Our organization talked to almost half-a-million small-town and rural voters in Lehigh, Lackawanna, Lancaster and Berks county this fall. As we listened to people on their porches and across their fences, we heard again and again that people are suffering — and they're pissed off.
Costs at the grocery store keep going up. Housing is becoming less and less affordable. Copays and deductibles are still rising, putting essential medicines and healthcare out of reach — and putting families into punishing debt. Kids are struggling to catch up after the worst of the Covid years, and parents can't afford childcare, even before Republicans gutted the vital child care subsidy Democrats passed in 2021. No wonder people are angry.
The truth is that big corporations and wealthy CEOs have been making out like bandits in recent years. They've used the pandemic, inflation, and their monopoly power as an excuse for price gouging — and leave working class families stuck with the bill.
These fat cats often find it advantageous to hitch their wagons to Mastriano and his ilk, who sow division and resentment against women, people of color, trans kids, and public school teachers to distract from the fact that they're robbing working people blind. Of course, the billionaire class is pretty good at hedging their bets, and all too often Democrats have jumped on the corporate bandwagon. That's why it's troubling to see people like Joel Greenberg — billionaire political donor Jeffrey Yass' business partner — given a line into the governor's office.
Still, Governor Shapiro is taking office with a real opportunity to deliver on a Pennsylvania that works for all of us. The state budget has a surplus, thanks in no small part to programs like the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, along with stronger than expected revenue in 2022. These funds could be used to improve public education, create jobs, and help working class families pay their bills. While Shapiro will face headwinds in the state senate and a razor thin margin in the house — and no doubt calls for various tax handouts and holidays for billionaires and their friends — there may be room to make headway on key pocketbook issues.
Initiatives like the Whole-Home Repairs Program, which passed last year with bipartisan support as a part of the state budget omnibus, show that it's possible to work together to pass legislation that makes a material difference for everyday people. After all, Pennsylvanians hit by high housing costs live in every state legislator's district, urban and rural, red and blue. Governor Shapiro would do well to work with the state legislature to make that program permanent and design other initiatives that use the power of government to help our families make ends meet.
Carrie Santoro, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Stands Up