Shusterman: This budget fails to put Pennsylvanians first

HARRISBURG, Nov. 23 – State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, released the following statement on why she voted against the budget that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed by a 104-97 vote Friday evening.

“I voted against this budget as I believe it grossly misuses over $1 billion in CARES Act dollars. Congress distributed this funding so that state legislatures can extend it as a lifeline to individuals, small businesses and nonprofits still recovering from this year’s economic hardship brought on by COVID-19. However, majority leaders who put this budget together used this money to fill holes in our spending plan.

“This budget that passed the House takes these one-time stimulus funds to pay our normal obligations because we failed to build up the Rainy Day Fund. Using one-time funding to cover recurring costs is fiscally irresponsible because it does not ensure that we’ll have enough money to pay these bills next year.

“Meanwhile, families are still struggling to pay their mortgage or rent, catch up on bills and access affordable daycare. Restaurants and other small businesses are trying to survive off limited resources based on reduced activity. Rather than putting Pennsylvanians first, this spending plan is riddled, once again, with budget shortcuts.

“This plan relies too heavily on one-time fixes and does not put us in a sound, stable position for June when we need to create the budget for the next fiscal year. We even missed out on opportunities to increase our sources of revenue such as imposing a severance tax on natural gas drilling, closing big, corporate loopholes, and raising the minimum wage – which would decrease Pennsylvanians’ reliance on state services while increasing personal income taxes.

“Lastly, the Fiscal Code carried unnecessary language banning certain flags from flying at the Capitol. It is trivial to prioritize what Lt. Governor Fetterman should or should not be hanging from his balcony instead of addressing how we can help our commonwealth bounce back from the ongoing public health crisis.

“I’m highly disappointed to see this valuable CARES Act funding go toward remedying poor fiscal decisions made by my colleagues across the aisle. However, this will not deter me from fighting for the same things I have been since COVID-19 entered our commonwealth in March: real relief for Pennsylvanians, nonprofits and small businesses in need.”