Today's inbox contained a number of statements about the GOP state budget:
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Sharon Ward issued the following statement on House passage of a 2013-14 budget bill (HB 1437) today:
“We are disappointed with the House budget. It reflects the wrong priorities for Pennsylvania. It chooses tax cuts for profitable corporations over funding for public schools and makes permanent almost 85 percent of the cuts enacted two years ago.
“Some lawmakers continue to blame temporary federal funds for Pennsylvania’s education cuts. The fact is that in 2011 the General Assembly made a choice to restore expiring federal funds for prisons but not for education.
“At a time when our economy is lagging, Pennsylvania should be making investments that move us forward. New tax cuts have cost educational opportunities for our children and jobs in our schools.
“We hope the Senate will make the prudent decision to delay a scheduled corporate tax cut that is unaffordable and can only lead to deeper cuts to education.”
Representative Brendan F. Boyle (Philadelphia/Montgomery Co) releases the following statement in response to the House passage of Governor Corbett’s budget:
“Once again Governor Corbett and the Republicans in the state legislature have forced their draconian cuts and slash and burn agenda on the people of Philadelphia. At a time when schools across the region are in dire straits and facing closures, Governor Corbett’s budget, which has now passed the House, is misguided and his priorities are misplaced. Governor Corbett and the House Republicans are irresponsibly advocating for cutting taxes for big corporations by over $350 million, while at the same time doing nothing to help our struggling schools.
Since 2010 the Philadelphia School District has seen a total reduction of $256 million in basic education funding, or a reduction of $29,000 per classroom. These numbers include any proposed increase from the GOP. The results of these drastic cuts have led the School District of Philadelphia to announce layoff notices for 3,783 employees, or almost 20% of the district’s total workforce. This is potentially the largest layoff of school district staff in 40 years. We can do better than this.
Our schools are in trouble. The success of our educational system is tied to the growth of our regional economy and the innovations put forth by our society. We need the state to reverse these cuts and make the education of students our top priority. Their future, and ours, depends on it."
State Rep. Mark Painter, D-Montgomery, today voted against the House Republican state budget proposal because it shortchanges education and will lead to higher school property taxes across the commonwealth.
"Tomorrow's work force is today's public school students and this budget does not provide adequate funding toward ensuring that we will have a well-educated work force in the years to come," Painter said.
"The claim that this budget does not raise taxes will ring hollow for residents in the local school districts that I represent because the fact is that property taxes go up when school funding goes down," he said.
Under the Corbett administration, annual state contributions have been cut by $742,870 to the Pottsgrove School District, $1.43 million to the Pottstown School District and $907,261 to the Spring-Ford School District, according to figures from the Democratic staff of the House Appropriations Committee.
"A top priority of my constituents is property tax relief and the Tom Corbett/House Republican budget plan does not provide any such relief. Contrast that with the more than 60 residents who responded to my robocall today inquiring if they are eligible for a property tax or rent rebate. We need to do more for these people and for taxpayers across the commonwealth and this budget falls woefully short of that goal."
The budget bill (H.B. 1437) moves to the state Senate for consideration. It must be passed by the June 30 deadline.
State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said the budget bill House Republicans plan to pass today fails to restore about 90 percent of the K-12 education funding Gov. Corbett and Republican legislators cut two years ago.
"Where's the other 90 percent of the education funding that was cut? The House Republican majority blocked Democrats from offering an amendment to restore the education cuts over three years -- that's why Philadelphia schools are having to cut 3,800 jobs. Democrats in Harrisburg have been fighting to restore funding, and we will keep fighting," Roebuck said.
"Governor Corbett and Republican legislators cut nearly $1 billion from K-12 education two years ago, locked those cuts in last year and want credit for finally putting back just 10 percent of that. They can find hundreds of millions of dollars for corporate tax breaks – if that approach worked, Pennsylvania would not be 49th in job creation, as we are under Governor Corbett.
"Due to inflation, the small increase in education funding really only amounts to flat funding anyway. At this pace, it would take 10 years to get back to the funding level our children's schools had in 2010-11. Even the inadequate 1.9 percent increase is tainted because wealthier school districts would get larger percentage basic funding increases than lower-income districts. Philadelphia would get a 1.6 percent increase – less than the rate of inflation, after two years of cuts -- but some wealthier suburban districts would get percentage increases twice or more as much. This is after the school funding cuts fell disproportionately on the least wealthy communities.
"State basic education funding is supposed to foster greater education equality and opportunity between school districts, not make it worse, which is what the Corbett administration and House Republican budgets are doing," Roebuck said. "Philadelphia is far from the only community facing this problem -- due to the funding cuts of the last two years, more and more of our school districts are becoming financially distressed, and the vast majority of Pennsylvania school districts are getting ready to make a third round of cuts."
Roebuck also opposes the House Republican budget because it refuses to accept the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would provide health insurance to about 600,000 low-income working Pennsylvanians, create nearly 40,000 jobs and strengthen critical-access hospitals in Philadelphia and across the state.