Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro allocated funding for Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine in his fiscal year 2024-25 budget proposal, despite the state’s withholding of funding last year over antisemitism concerns.
The budget proposal, which was announced Feb. 6, included more than $33 million in combined funding for Penn Vet and Penn Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases — the same amount that was included in the 2022-23 budget. It comes after the Pa. House of Representatives voted to withhold such funding in December 2023, marking the first time Penn Vet has not received state funding since 1889.
Funding for Penn Vet, the only state-funded veterinary school, falls under the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
“We appreciate Governor Shapiro acknowledging Penn Vet’s importance to Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry in his budget proposal,” Penn Vet Chief Communications Officer Martin Hackett wrote in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “We look forward to working with the General Assembly to continue the school’s longstanding public-private partnership with the Commonwealth in Fiscal Year 2024-2025 and resolving the need to fund the school’s state-related work this fiscal year.”
In December 2023, a Republican-led effort in the State House voted to withhold funding for Penn Vet. Shortly afterwards, Republican members of the Pa. House of Representatives formed a task force to address antisemitism on Penn’s campus.
When the task force was first announced, Pennsylvania state Rep. and Republican Leader of the Pa. House Bryan Cutler (R-100) wrote to Interim President Larry Jameson and Penn Vet Dean Andrew Hoffman expressing concern over “months of disturbing reports” and lack of immediate change.
“We have had constructive dialogue with leadership at the University of Pennsylvania and hope to continue those productive conversations over the coming weeks as we work toward the shared goal of eliminating antisemitism and call for the genocide of Jewish people,” Cutler’s press secretary Jason Gottesman wrote in a Feb. 7 statement to the DP.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Rob Mercuri (R-28), who is a member of the task force, told the DP that Jameson responded to Cutler’s letter. He expressed optimism about the ongoing dialogue and the ability to reach consensus within a reasonable timeframe.
“It was a response that we received and indicated, generally, the willingness of the University to work with legislators to make sure that antisemitism and other similar types of speech are not acceptable, and that there are appropriate consequences and processes at the University.” Mercuri said.
State Rep. Jesse Topper (R-78), another member of the task force, was also “cautiously optimistic” about conversations thus far with members of the University Board of Trustees and Penn’s administration.
“I believe that [Shapiro] sees that that there could be a path forward,” Topper said. “He wants — we all want — that relationship to be restored.”
Topper also indicated that the previously withheld funding could be restored due to its status as a nonpreferred appropriation, but said that there were no such plans to do so currently.
Those on the Democratic side of the aisle also expressed general support for Shapiro’s budget plan and hopes to reach consensus.
“I am glad to see the Governor include funding for Penn Vet in his budget address," 2013 Engineering graduate and state Rep. Rick Krajewski (D-188) wrote in a statement to the DP. “I look forward to working together with the Governor and my colleagues to fund policies that will ensure every Pennsylvanian can thrive.”
1992 University of Pennsylvania Carey Law graduate and state Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-10) was similarly optimistic about the “larger picture” of the budget proposal.
“If there can be broad agreement on these other issues, hopefully, the funding for Penn will be part of that as well,” he said.
When the funding was first struck down, Nicole Reigelman, press secretary to Pa. House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-191), framed the action as a partisan initiative.
“Denying funding to Penn Vet will have little impact beyond hurting students and it will have long term negative consequences on Pennsylvania’s entire agricultural sector,” Reigelman wrote in a December 2023 statement to the DP.
Mercuri said that — once the task force sees progress — funding “is likely” to return to Penn Vet and the Division of Infectious Diseases.
“I think the legislative envoy does want to see progress, and with progress, I think there will be an appetite for funding,” he said. “And I think it really depends on how those meetings go the next two months, and then we'll go from there.”