Phila. Senators, City Officials Discuss State Budget Impact
Philadelphia, March 18, 2011 — The Philadelphia Senate Delegation today held a discussion on the impact of the governor’s proposed 2011-12 budget plan on the Philadelphia region.
The senators, along with representatives from the mayor’s office, School District of Philadelphia, Temple and Cheney universities, and the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), talked about the consequences of the proposed budget cuts during a roundtable discussion at Temple University, which is slated to receive a 52 percent cut in state funding under the governor’s plan.
“We knew the governor would make cuts, but I think we were all surprised how deep the cuts were, especially to education,” said Kitchen (D-3rd dist.). “Although we are still in trying times, this budget is unfairly balanced on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens and our students, from pre-kindergarten through college.
“We have gathered together to have a serious talk about the fallout from the governor’s proposal so that we as legislators can bring suggestions and alternatives back to Harrisburg,” she said. “This will have a big impact on many people, so we need to find any way to ease the pain.”
“It makes cuts to the most vulnerable and needy citizens among us,” added Sen. Larry Farnese (D-1st dist.). “This budget does not share the pain, and we are leaving money on the table.”
Sen. Tina Tartaglione said the governor’s plan to ask union employees to make sacrifices while cutting programs and services that employ these workers is detrimental to the health of the state’s recovering economy.
“At a time when our economy is still fragile, we depend on our workforce to help move us forward. Many of them are already working under tight budgets and juggling more responsibilities,” said Tartaglione (D-2nd dist.). “I don’t understand why hard-working union employees are being asked to make more sacrifices, while large corporations are spared any ounce of fiscal pain. The governor said his budget was all about ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ but all the union workers hear are ‘cuts, cuts, cuts.’”
Sen. LeAnna Washington also questioned the governor’s priorities. Corbett’s budget plan does not call for a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers.
“The governor does not have a moral right to give away our natural resources, then turn around and cut education and healthcare,” said Washington (D-4th dist.). “The people of Pennsylvania don’t understand, and don’t agree with these misplaced priorities.”
Sen. Vince Hughes said Pennsylvania’s ongoing successful education track record would be halted under the governor’s proposed cuts, including $550 million to basic education and $260 million to the Accountability Block Grant program, which funds all-day kindergarten in many school districts, including Philadelphia.
“We cannot retreat on Pennsylvania’s record of education success,” said Hughes (D-7th dist.), who is the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Investments during the past decade have transformed Pennsylvania into a national education leader. We are here today to learn from these leaders firsthand the full impact of the proposed cuts.”
Sen. Mike Stack added that the 10 percent in cuts to community colleges hurt Pennsylvania’s improving but still shaky economic climate.
“Our community colleges are offering students an opportunity to get a quality and affordable education. Many of them are working adults who are unemployed or looking to boost their job skills,” said Stack (D-5th dist.). “Cutting community college funding during such difficult economic times only hinders the state’s chance to boost our workforce. We should invest in our educational institutions, not punish them.”
Hughes also assailed the deep cuts to hospitals, which are already feeling fiscal pain as they try to heal those in physical pain.
“Hospitals are already struggling with decreased revenues and increased numbers of uninsured patients,” he said. “I don’t know how we can responsibly pass a state budget that eliminates their supplemental funding and still expect them to provide quality services to the people they serve.”