In response to the unemployment figures released by the state Department of Labor and Industry, Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione released the following statement.  Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, is the Democratic Chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee.

“Nearly four months after Republicans pushed through a short-sighted state budget that slashed key funds for job creation and economic development, today’s news of a rising unemployment rate is a clear sign that Pennsylvania needs bold leadership in a new direction.

“The number of unemployed Pennsylvanians has jumped by more than 50,000 since the day Gov. Corbett signed the budget and the legislative majority’s focus on fringe issues and right-wing ideology offers little hope for the coming months.

“The Corbett budget cut more than $1 billion from education programs, reducing local school district employment by more than 14,000 jobs, with more than 2,000 lost jobs in the Philadelphia School District alone.  These deep cuts were made while ignoring a state revenue surplus that grew to nearly $800 million by the close of our last fiscal year.

“The result is a stunning downturn after years of weathering the recession better than most states.  When that budget was making its way through the General Assembly, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 1.7 percentage points below the national average, the best comparison to the national average in more than ten years.  Today, that gap has been cut in half, and it’s narrowing.

“Pennsylvania ranked 12th for new job creation in 2010.  Today’s announcement means we are moving backward.

“The downturn of our state economy should come as no surprise.  Last February, I joined my Senate Democratic colleagues to introduce a sensible job creation plan call PA Works, most of which is still sitting in committee.

“Last week, I voiced support for PA Works Now, our plan to put more Pennsylvanians back to work.  We repeated our earlier calls for new investment in infrastructure, job training, and business investments that have clear records of success.  The plan outlined a new set of tax credits to encourage small-business owners to make child and elder care available to their employees and to provide new training and internship opportunities for young people.

“My legislation in the package calls for Marcellus Shale drillers to directly invest in training to hire more Pennsylvania workers and create a call center for emergency services that could provide employment for the nearly 15 percent of workers with disabilities who cannot find a job.

“Lawmakers who are distracted by personal priorities and politically-motivated policies that are part of the national Republican political agenda should set aside these hobbies and focus on jobs.  Lawmakers intent on eliminating thousands of jobs in our state liquor system should be sobered by today’s announcement and understand that every family sustaining job should have our support and protection.

It is long past time to implement a responsible tax on Marcellus Shale drilling.  Also, a reasonable funding plan for transportation investment should be acted without delay.  Finally, our priorities must be redirected from risky tax giveaways that reward campaign friends and shifted back to supporting our children, our environment, our schools and our neighbors. ”

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