It’s the season to shed bad habits. And Gov. Josh Shapiro, as he enters year two in office, should consider dropping this overdone one: catchphrases.

The media-savvy rookie governor is fond of his brand as a rising political star. To achieve this image, Shapiro repeats certain phrases ad nauseam

As he prepares for 2024, Shapiro should rethink these recycled catchphrases. 


Shapiro likes to remind us that he fixed I-95. This achievement landed him favorable coverage in the Washington Post and hardy atta-boys from President Joe Biden

To be sure, the timely repair went beyond everybody’s expectations. However, Shapiro’s contribution was limited to his administration expediting the permitting process. Getting out of the way of those performing the actual work isn’t something to brag about. 

Beyond I-95, however, Shapiro lacks any noteworthy accomplishments. According to a recent poll, 61 percent of voters couldn’t identify a single accomplishment by Shapiro. 

“Get stuff done” 

Shapiro boasts about his get-stuff-done (GSD) attitude, sometimes substituting “stuff” for its vulgar alternative

However, Shapiro is the least productive Pennsylvania governor ever. Excluding general appropriations, Shapiro only signed six bills during his first six months in office. Previous governors enacted, on average, 86 bills during the same six-month period

Put simply, the stuff ain’t done. 

“Unfinished business” 

While the governor brags about all the “done stuff,” he also laments about “unfinished business.” (Governor, which is it?)

Pennsylvania lawmakers “completed” the state budget six months late. But they did so without addressing many of the governor’s top priorities, including providing a “lifeline” to students trapped in failing schools. (More on that later.) 

When asked about his unkept promises, Shapiro blamed the legislature for not following through. Moments like these draw the distinction between politicians and real leaders. 

“Divided legislature” 

Shapiro frequently groans about the Republican-controlled Senate and a Democrat-controlled House. 

However, Virginia — also home to a divided legislature last year—outproduced Pennsylvania. During its 2023 session, the Virginia General Assembly, which only meets for 60 days, reviewed more than 3,000 bills. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed 812 bills into law — 54 times more than Shapiro

Truth be told, Shapiro’s biggest source of legislative gridlock is in one chamber. The Democrat-led House hamstrings the state’s legislative process, shuttering operations whenever they lose their one-vote majority. 

As a result, Shapiro won’t have the chance to achieve any legislation for the first quarter as the House remains evenly split — and absent — until mid-March.

“Open for business” 

As working-aged people and companies flee the commonwealth for better opportunities elsewhere, Pennsylvania struggles to rebound economically following the pandemic. 

Fancying himself an economic developer, Shapiro promised to lower taxes, reform occupational licensing, and expedite permitting. The governor seemed eager to replicate what he did with I-95: remove the government barriers impeding private enterprise. 

However, Shapiro hasn’t signed any meaningful market-friendly reforms. At most, he’s secured a “money-back guarantee” to businesses, repaying their permit application fees if the state doesn’t promptly respond. But these fees are chump change compared to the economic investment tied up in the 2,400 licenses, permits, and certifications his administration processes. 

“Every child of God” 

Maybe this is one phrase Shapiro should keep — along with his promise to kids trapped in failing, unsafe schools.

“Every child of God” deserves a high-quality education, said Shapiro in defense of Lifeline

 Scholarships. The program, also known as the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS), would provide educational savings accounts to students attending Pennsylvania’s lowest-performing schools. Students can use the accounts to pay tuition at a better school. 

Shapiro’s words proved infamous when he vetoed Lifeline Scholarships/PASS from his first budget proposal. In doing so, the rookie governor betrayed not only his legislative colleagues with whom he negotiated in good faith but also hundreds of thousands of children trapped in Pennsylvania’s failing schools. 

But hope is not lost. Shapiro seems interested in revisiting this wildly popular proposal

We can’t have “unfinished business,” can we? 

In 2023, Shapiro talked the talk. In 2024, he must walk the walk. The honeymoon phase is over, and Shapiro must address his backlog of campaign promises that went by the wayside in 2023. 

Otherwise, voters might adopt their own GSD attitude: get somebody different. 

Erik Telford is the Senior Vice President of Public Relations at the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.

One thought on “Erik Telford: Shapiro’s New Year’s resolution”

  1. sometimes the less politicians do the less it costs the taxpayers. but they do love to spend other peoples money on “getting stuff done”.

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