Bradford calls school vouchers ‘very problematic’ but adds House Dems didn’t say ‘hell no’ – Pennsylvania Capital-Star
During remarks at the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday, state House Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery) told the audience his caucus didn’t say “hell no” on school vouchers. But when asked about them afterward by a group of reporters, Bradford said he viewed school vouchers, which have caused a rift between Democrats in the Legislature and Gov. Josh Shapiro, as “very problematic, period, full stop.”
It was one of several comments Bradford made during the press club luncheon (and after) about the current state of affairs at the Capitol. In addition to school vouchers, he referenced the unfinished state budget, whether he thinks the state will move its presidential primary, and how Democrats in the House are “willing to have conversations about important issues.”
Bradford described Democrats’ one-seat advantage in the state House as a “humble majority,” and touted his caucus’s focus on putting forth legislation that would “increase the state’s minimum wage, protect a woman’s right to choose, and protect the environment.”
He said that while he doesn’t always agree with Gov. Josh Shapiro, a fellow Montgomery County Democrat, the Democratic House majority is willing to work with the Republican-controlled Senate” and the governor to “create a better Pennsylvania.”
“These nine months have not been without drama and without dysfunction. It has not been completely smooth sailing,” Bradford said. “But it has set us on a different course to bring up issues that were long bottled up.”
While Bradford said lowering the state’s corporate net income tax was an area where Democrats and Republicans have largely agreed, the two sides remain at odds over school vouchers.
Earlier this year, Shapiro voiced his support for a Senate Republican-backed $100 million school voucher program during budget negotiations. But he later line-item vetoed the program when House Democrats said they wouldn’t support it.
“Our caucus said we’re going to sit down and have a conversation with a governor who we love and respect, with a Senate that we may disagree with, but if they want to talk about poor kids and poor schools, from an equity vision, of Black and Brown kids especially,” Bradford told interviewer Dennis Owens, of WHTM-TV during a Q and A session, “we look forward to this discussion.”
In February, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the state’s funding system for K-12 public schools was unconstitutional.
“I don’t believe in using government taxpayer money to fund religious schools, schools that can discriminate, schools that frankly don’t have to take the hardest cases,” Bradford told reporters after the luncheon concluded. “What I want to talk about is alternatives.”
On the state budget, Bradford echoed the governor saying there was no budget impasse. In August, Shapiro signed a $45.5 billion budget, but some priorities remain unfunded.
Bradford added that House Democrats made the most out of the situation months ago, to ensure certain programs received proper funding.
“What we did was we took lemons and made lemonade and made sure the people of Pennsylvania weren’t hurt in that process,” Bradford told reporters after the luncheon. “Now, are there some things we need to work out? Sure, but again, we recognize we were able to limit the amount of pain people felt.”
Bradford also addressed a question about why House and Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle seemingly aren’t making progress on the budget.
“I think sometimes they talk past each other, and by ‘they’ I put myself in that,” Bradford said. “We all have an obligation to redouble our efforts.”
During the Q&A portion of the program, Bradford said that he opposes a Senate-backed bill that advanced late last month that would have moved the state’s 2024 presidential primary to March 19.
“Listen, the challenge about finding a date is that our county commissioners believe that a date in March was too quick and too compressed,” Bradford said.
Bradford added that the House passed a bill that would move the 2024 primary date from April 23 to April 16, which would avoid the primary being held on the same day as Passover. However, Republicans argued the time to change the primary date had passed and that the matter would not receive further consideration in the upper chamber.
When pressed by Owens during the Q&A if he would consider pushing the primary date back to May, Bradford appeared open to the suggestion.
“We’re not married to any one date,” Bradford said. “We are married to being respectful of people’s religions, and making sure the counties can run a free and fair election.”
Gov. Josh Shapiro is scheduled to be the speaker at the next Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon on Nov. 20.
Originally published at www.penncapital-star.com,by John Cole