Solomon on budget vote
When my colleagues and I announced the Philadelphia Platform for this legislative session, we said that poverty was the biggest issue we needed to address and that we would fight for dozens of proposals that could bend poverty to our collective will. Specifically, we put forward four policy planks that we feel can do that: Workforce Development & Education, Commercial Corridors, Criminal Justice, and Infrastructure and Exports.
If we use those planks as a report card, this budget in my view gets the following marks:
- Workforce and Education: A-. With an increase for education across the board (Pre-K, K-12, Higher Ed., and Special Education) this budget has historic investments to give people a strong educational foundation, which is crucial to getting out of poverty. It also continues high investment in innovative workforce development proposals that I have been pushing for that help kids and adults learn skills that put them on the path to a family-sustaining career.
- Commercial Corridors: D. There is nothing in this budget beyond what’s previously been approved to support commercial corridors in the way we laid out in our plan.
- Criminal Justice: B. I led the charge to get $2.5 million more in this budget for the Gun Violence Task Force to tackle the scourge of illegal guns and gun violence in the city. There’s also a near-doubling in the budget for the Board of Pardons, and more support for probation and parole officers to reduce caseloads. Hopefully more criminal justice reform will come on pre-trial reform and dignity for incarcerated women later in the session.
- Infrastructure: D. There is no money in this budget for rehabbing our public school buildings, for SEPTA (which is facing a fiscal cliff in a few years time) or for our export infrastructure. Governor Wolf's attempts to fund infrastructure via a tax on natural gas was also not included.
Moreover, since reducing poverty is our North Star, the fact that this budget strips General Assistance to the poorest Pennsylvanians and fails to raise the minimum wage (stuck at $7.25 for ten years now) is deeply troubling and disappointing to me. We have a good economy, a budget surplus, and it is not even an election year but the only compensation this budget raises is our own (members of the House of Representatives’ compensation is going up nearly 7% in this budget). For those reasons I voted no on this budget.
Please come join me at my Town Hall on July 18 at 6 p.m. at Jardel Rec. Center to discuss more about the budget and why I voted the way I did. Thank you.