The Non-Profit Rally to Fight Budget Cuts is still happening at
Noon-Dilworth Plaza across City Hall
Why? Hasn't the legislature agreed on a budget? Why should we
Here are just a few reasons:
budget includes deep cuts in support for a wide range of programs
supporting affordable housing, adult literacy, the environment, and other
human needs. There will likely be hundreds of layoffs.
budget's projected revenues includes a tax on natural gas--but no clear
formula to raise it. The budget deal threw out proposals to tax smokeless
tobacco and special deals for vendors with the State.
serious--the budget includes revenues from the federal government to
support Medicaid that has not yet passed the Senate. Without these
revenues, another $866 million will have to be cut this year.
To its credit:
budget increases support for basic education--the overwhelming priority
of the Rendell administration.
budget maintains support for child care.
budget preserves support for special education at last year's
These are positives. But this budget falls far short of the support
that the people in our neighborhoods need to survive in this economy and
provide their children with resources needed to succeed,
And the budget fight is not over. If Congress does not approve aid to
Medicaid--$866 million more in cuts. And when stimulus funding ends next
year, billions in state aid from the federal government.
We need to send a strong message to our elected officials that if
their budget is not done--our fight for families, communities, and
schools has just begun---and we will be heard loud and clear until
Harrisburg and Washington provide the support that we desperately need in
this troubled economy.
RALLY TODAY AT
NOON--DILWORTH PLAZA--15th STREET ACROSS FROM CITY HALL
Philadelphia Inquirer story on the budget:
Pa. budget sent to Rendell
By Angela Couloumbis, Evan
Trowbridge, and Amy Worden
Inquirer Staff Writers
HARRISBURG - With hours to spare before the new fiscal year begins, the
General Assembly approved a $28 billion budget, marking the first time in
eight years that legislators and the governor agreed on a spending plan
by the June 30 deadline.
Just before 6 p.m. Wednesday, the House, in a 117-84 vote, signed off on
the budget deal brokered earlier in the week by Gov. Rendell and top
legislators. The chamber did so only minutes after the measure came up
for consideration - and without the customary hours of speeches or
Earlier in the day, the Senate, too, took less than a half-hour to
approve the deal in a 37-13 vote.
The bill now goes to Rendell's desk for his signature. The governor said
in a statement that he intends to sign it; he could do so as early as
Friday. But he said he would hold off until several other budget-related
bills, including one for capital expenditures, are passed.
There could be one snag: a dispute between Republicans who control the
Senate and Democrats who control the House over the creation of an
independent budget office to issue revenue projections and spending
reports. Senate Republicans are championing the idea, but House Democrats
are resisting - and that could stall passage of the capital expenditure
"It is a line in the sand for us," said Drew Crompton, a Senate
Republican lawyer. "But I don't think it's catastrophic. I get the
sense that there's interest in resolving it."
Rendell called the budget's swift passage "a reflection of what can
happen when leaders from all quarters and all parties come together to
make difficult and important decisions in a bipartisan and timely
The budget calls for spending about $1 billion less than Rendell had
originally proposed, and would boost spending over this year less than 1
And it does not raise taxes.
But it does leave many critical questions unanswered.
The spending plan relies on hundreds of millions in federal Medicaid
funds from Congress that do not appear likely to materialize.
And it calls for taxing the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus
Shale formation - but puts off until fall such critical decisions as what
the tax rate will be, how much revenue is expected, and how that revenue
is to be disbursed.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) said Wednesday that
the bill reflects that "we are living through a national
As a result, he said, "we had to make tough but necessary decisions
to produce a balanced budget."
Others weren't so sanguine.
Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) said he believed legislators rushed to
beat the budget deadline at the expense of producing a plan that would
have better protected funding in areas such as mental-health services and
Leach also said the budget fails to address what is being forecast as a
fiscal tsunami heading for Pennsylvania. Legislators are projecting a
multibillion-dollar deficit next year because federal stimulus funds will
dry up and public employee pension payments will come due.
"There was too much of a priority placed on getting it done before
June 30," Leach said Wednesday after voting against the legislation.
"I know people worked very hard during negotiations, but at the end
of the day, I would have been willing to stay a little longer and fight
for things that I think are important."
Leach said one pressure point is that this is an election year. In
November, all 203 seats in the House and half of the 50 seats in the
Senate are up for grabs.
No legislator, he said, wanted to deal with the negative publicity that
ensued after last year's budget was passed a record 101 days
G. Terry Madonna, a widely quoted political science professor and
pollster at Franklin and Marshall College, said the elections and the
glowering temperament of many voters toward incumbents this year
"transcended every other consideration."
"Members of the legislature," said Madonna, "did not want
to remain stuck in Harrisburg in a year when voter confidence is at its
lowest level in modern history."
Other political observers said many lawmakers also feared the T-word -
they shuddered at the notion of having to vote on any budget proposal
that included raising taxes in an election year.
That is why there was little enthusiasm for Rendell's proposed tax on
cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco - and that idea died a quick
death. Likewise, the governor's plan to close the so-called Delaware
loophole - which allows corporations headquartered elsewhere to avoid
paying certain business taxes in the state - expired for lack of support.
The budget includes a $250 million increase in basic-education funding
for public schools, a signature issue for Rendell. The figure is less
than the governor wanted but still stands out in a budget otherwise
characterized by cuts.
To help offset the state's recession-driven $1.2 billion deficit, the
budget includes steep cuts for state parks, environmental-protection
programs, health-care centers, and libraries, among other items.
That, in turn, will likely translate into layoffs of about 1,000 state
employees, according to administration estimates.
The situation, however, will be far worse if the federal Medicaid money
is not approved by Congress.
The $28 billion spending plan relies on receiving $850 million from
Washington to help balance the budget and fund federally mandated
If all or even a portion of that money is not approved, administration
officials and legislators will have to cut more programs. Rendell has
predicted that 20,000 state workers, county and municipal employees, and
public-school teachers could lose their jobs.
"This budget is a political shell game rather than a real
solution," said Rep. Scott Perry (R., York), referring to the fact
that it relies on many unknowns.
Rendell spent Wednesday in Washington lobbying federal lawmakers reach a
speedy resolution and come up with the money. But this year,
billion-dollar spending bills are tough territory for members of Congress
facing elections of their own.
State House Speaker Keith McCall (D., Carbon) said the state has enough
money right now to meet its Medicaid obligations until January. He said
he and others will continue to lobby lawmakers in Washington to pass a
bill by the congressional deadline of Oct. 1.
This is only the second time in Rendell's tenure that legislators have
passed a budget on time. They did so in 2003 - but Rendell vetoed a large
chunk of that budget, forcing a months-long stalemate over education
funding and tax increases.
Governors Plead Case in D.C. Gov. Rendell and
from several other cash-strapped states went to Washington
to warn that unless Congress gave them more money to help pay for health
care for the poor, their states could face layoffs and cuts in services.
including New York's David Paterson and Michigan's
Jennifer Granholm, said Wednesday that their states needed the money to
avoid cutbacks that could hurt some of their most vulnerable citizens.
A deficit-weary Congress
recently rejected billions of dollars in
additional aid to states. The federal stimulus program enacted last year
expires in December. Congress was poised to extend some funding to
states, including $16 billion for Medicaid, the public health-care
program for the poor. But the measure died in the Senate.
- Associated Press
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