Gov. Shapiro’s Impressive First 100 Days

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What can you reasonably expect to achieve in 3 percent of the time you have a job?

For reporters and other observers, the 3 percent milestone is an important inflection point for assessing the performance of elected officials, especially executives like governors. One hundred days into his tenure as Pennsylvania governor, Josh Shapiro has built a strong foundation for success as he heads into negotiations on his first budget.

Shapiro succeeded my former boss, Gov. Tom Wolf, who pushed the boundaries of executive action even in the face of opposition. Wolf expanded Medicaid, organized command centers to respond to the opioid crisis and the workforce shortage, and initiated a compact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

I thought we might have left the executive-action cupboard bare for Shapiro, but I’ve been impressed by his administration’s creative actions to make the executive branch more responsive to Pennsylvanians. He and his team have been clever and proposed simple but powerful solutions to complex problems.

Shapiro has repealed college-degree requirements for 92 percent of government jobs in the commonwealth. This opens the door for more applicants to build their careers in Pennsylvania and serves as an example to the private sector. The Shapiro administration also improved the state’s byzantine permitting, certification, and licensing process by offering refunds to applicants if the administration did not move on an application in an appropriate time frame. These are common-sense, bipartisan moves that make living and working in Pennsylvania a little easier.

Shapiro took these necessary actions against a chaotic backdrop: the Norfolk Southern train derailment. This disaster monopolized the early attention of the administration, but Shapiro has been responsive to the affected communities and rightly critical of the railroad and its executives.

The state legislature has been understandably slow to constitute itself, given slim margins in the state House of Representatives and the interruption of February special elections. Shapiro has turned this challenge into an opportunity, reaching out to legislators and delivering a sweeping budget address with common-sense proposals hard to oppose. Shapiro has some structural advantages: Democratic control of the House will be an invaluable tool to leverage his budget proposals, and he won’t have to fend off adversarial legislative proposals. Shapiro’s work with the legislature has set up his administration for a much easier first budget season than we enjoyed in the Wolf administration.

The governor has made other compelling proposals. Recognizing the changing nature of higher education, he has formed a commission to study the maze of state schools, community colleges, state-related schools, regional campuses, and independent schools, in an effort to help the state deliver the best value for students and taxpayers. Like many other institutions and organizations in Pennsylvania, higher education is in a somewhat fractured state. Comprehensive reform will take time, but the governor has made a good start.

Shapiro and his team have built a strong foundation for the remaining 97 percent of his time in office. He has shaped his administration and the bureaucratic apparatus to meet his goals and strategy. He has handled an early crisis deftly. And he has taken creative and popular steps to fix complex problems that affect millions of Pennsylvanians.

One hundred days can’t tell us everything, of course. Shapiro will face more crises, and issues will emerge that will challenge him and his team. But so far, Pennsylvanians can take heart in their new governor’s bipartisan strategy and steady approach.  

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