Republican budget cuts would harm Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania needs a budget that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected. The House Republican budget bill passed in early April makes clear that the wealthy and well-off special interests take precedence over working families and the middle class.

Alarmingly, the House Republican budget includes cuts that are harmful for many Pennsylvanians. Not a single Democrat voted for the Republican budget bill because of its harmful impact on children, veterans, our elderly, public health and safety and more.

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Republican budget ignores heroin crisis

(June 29, 2017)

The current version of the House Republican budget ignores the heroin crisis and threatens the ability of many Pennsylvania counties to provide mental health services. State cuts would reduce services for mental health patients in counties that already were forced to eliminate services during the last round of Republican budget cuts. Reducing or eliminating support for people with developmental disabilities will leave many families with stark and painful choices. They'll be forced to care for their loved ones at home on their own, or place them in an institution. The cuts would further impact nearly every family in the state by interfering with Pennsylvania's ability to address the growing heroin abuse and addiction crisis. A recent report shows that hospital admissions for heroin and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 2010 in Pennsylvania. This growing crisis is having a devastating impact on families, communities and taxpayers. The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council estimates heroin-related hospital admissions alone cost $27 million last year. The cuts in the Republican budget would deny treatment to 1,200 people not eligible for Medicaid. That many people losing access to treatment creates additional public safety and healthcare costs that Pennsylvania cannot afford to bear. Counties and healthcare providers in Pennsylvania have excelled at doing more with less -- Read more

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Republican choices limit families' financial security and children's future

(June 28, 2017)

The House Republican budget bill (H.B. 218) could drive waiting lists for quality child care in Pennsylvania to their highest levels in history. The Republican budget cuts childcare assistance and services support by nearly $70 million. This would eliminate childcare services for 10,000 PA children and increase waiting lists by almost 20,000. House Bill 218 also denies more funding for home visiting programs that evidence shows keeps many new moms and their babies healthy. The governor's proposed budget would help provide quality childcare options for the parents of an additional 1,800 children. This support would allow parents to work while their children receive reliable, safe care. The governor's proposed budget also supports home visiting services for 1,700 families. House Democrats support these important investments in our state's future. The days of middle class families being able to get by with only one parent working are long gone. The vast majority of families require two incomes to make ends meet. The absence of safe, reliable childcare options threatens the job stability and financial security of many parents. Without a strong commitment to child care and pre-K from the state, thousands of middle class parents cannot afford quality care for their children. They risk losing the income their family needs, and their kids miss out on the opportunities and Read more

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It's time for Pennsylvania to stop papering over its budget holes

(June 22, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 21 – For many years during budget negotiations, Democrats have proposed commonsense solutions like a severance tax on gas drillers and closing corporate tax loopholes, but each year Republicans have resisted. This year Pennsylvania is facing a $3 billion deficit, and there is still no tax on gas drillers or move to close loopholes. Republicans who like to paint themselves as fiscal conservatives have helped create a $3 billion deficit and now may try to do something that makes our fiscal situation even worse. Instead of a commonsense tax on natural gas or closing loopholes in our law that favor greedy out-of-state corporations, Republicans are proposing a borrowing scheme that would further threaten Pennsylvania taxpayers. As Democratic Leader of the House, I am eager to explain to my colleagues why borrowing $2 billion to fill the deficit is the wrong plan when we can simply tax gas drillers and close loopholes. But like Washington Republicans, Harrisburg Republicans aren't willing to listen. While congressional Republicans are getting slammed for crafting a massive health care bill in secret and without hearings, Harrisburg Republicans are making plans to borrow something like $2 billion with virtually no public discussion to try to balance the state’s grossly out-of- whack budget for one year. They plan to borrow this huge sum and repay the loan with the state’s future Read more

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Republican budget bill risks public health and safety

(June 23, 2017)

One week remains before the fiscal year starts anew. If the House and Senate send to Gov. Wolf the House Republican budget bill passed in April, public health and safety is automatically put at risk. Severe cuts in the House Republican budget bill (H.B. 218) would devastate Pennsylvania's fight against heroin addiction. Heroin and opioid abuse is the worst public health crisis Pennsylvania has ever faced. We lose 13 people a day to overdose deaths in Pennsylvania, and almost no family or community has gone untouched. Last year, more than 3,500 lives were saved in PA using naloxone. The Republican budget eliminates $10 million to get naloxone out to residents and first responders in our communities. The Republican budget also reduces funding for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and Behavioral Health Services. Those cuts will jeopardize efforts to stop addiction and abuse before it happens and to provide treatment and save lives once it does. A fully funded budget balanced with recurring, sustainable revenues is the only way to maintain support for the work being done at the state, county and local level to reduce the impact of the heroin crisis on our families and communities. The Republican budget also includes huge cuts in state police funding, complicating efforts to make sure all communities and resident in Pennsylvania are safe. The Republican plan ignores several Read more

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Severance tax would make PA's fiscal challenges - and your property tax burden - easier

(June 20, 2017)

Pennsylvania's stubborn fiscal problems would look a lot less challenging if we had $1.6 billion more for our schools, communities and residents. That's how much revenue Pennsylvania has given up in the past 6 years by refusing to collect a severance tax from natural gas drillers. Last year, the state generated just $173 million with its inadequate impact fee -- more than $14 million less than the previous year. At the same time, the value of the natural gas being produced in Pennsylvania rose by 7%. Natural gas production continues to rise in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, because we refuse to levy a severance tax on gas, so do the household property taxes we increasingly rely on to support our schools and community services. Rising property taxes threaten the homes of many senior citizens on fixed incomes and the financial security of many working families. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state without a severance tax on natural gas. This failure isn't just a missed opportunity, it's a dereliction of duty. A group of powerful legislators beholden to corporate special interests continues to block the commonsense severance tax that most Pennsylvanians support. They insist on governing based on what's best for the drillers and wealthy gas corporations. House Democrats believe we should be governing on behalf of what's best for you, your kids' Read more

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Severance tax is a step toward a smarter, better budget

(June 19, 2017)

Pennsylvania faces a serious and growing budget deficit as talks get underway on the 2017-18 state budget. We can't continue to rely solely on temporary revenue sources, more borrowing from critical programs, or accounting gimmicks to balance our budgets. And we can't keep cutting from our schools, our economy and public health and safety -- all these things are important to the future of our state and our residents and their families. What we can and should do to begin closing the deficit and moving our state forward is taking a better approach to the budget. House Democrats want a responsible approach that includes making government more efficient, closing loopholes that increase the burden on the middle class, and having everyone, including corporations and the wealthy, pay their fair share. The best way to address a stubborn and lingering deficit problem is with predictable, sustainable revenues that grow with the economy. One option Republican budgets have ignored for years is a natural gas severance tax. A severance tax would provide sustainable, predictable revenue that grows as the industry grows. The impact fee Republicans prefer helps host communities, but it continues to shrink as natural gas production and profits expand. The burden on middle class taxpayers should go down as revenues and profits for gas drillers go up. Here in Pennsylvania, we have it backwards. A Read more

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Restore the partnership between the counties and Harrisburg

(June 5, 2017)

The House Republican budget bill (H.B. 218) would cut or eliminate tens of millions of dollars in state support for county justice, corrections and healthcare services. In many of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, the loss of these funds could cripple county budgets already devastated by deep cuts in previous Republican spending plans. Because of those previous cuts and the 2015-16 budget impasse, most counties have already drawn down on their reserves and lost millions in interest as a result; 30 percent of counties have had to borrow just to keep required programs and services operating. Few counties are in a position to survive the deep cuts in the latest Republican budget bill. So although H.B. 218 is touted by House Republicans as a “no tax increase” state budget, in reality, its lack of adequate support for counties will place additional pressures on local budgets and additional burdens on local taxpayers. The Republican budget bill completely eliminates nearly $60 million in state support for things like sentencing, juvenile and adult probation, court staffing, drug and alcohol treatment, and county and community support services. As well as eliminating these funds, the Republican budget also reduces support for other health, safety and wellness services for counties by more than $17 million. Services negatively impacted by these cuts include mental and behavioral health, homeless assistance, and other Read more

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Let's build success for our youngest residents

(May 31, 2017)

This week, district attorneys, nurses and other children's advocates from across Pennsylvania were joined by a few Senate Republicans to call for more state investments in preventing child abuse and neglect. The senators should start by talking to their colleagues on the other side of the Capitol. A budget bill written and passed entirely by Republicans in the House of Representatives earlier this year severely underfunds important services for younger Pennsylvanians, including home visiting programs that have been shown to reduce child abuse and neglect. A $9 million increase for home-visiting services that Gov. Wolf and House Democrats have advocated for in Pennsylvania's 2017-18 budget was not included in the Republican version -- House Bill 218. Republicans also left out proposed increases to help give more working parents access to safe, affordable child care, and severely cut proposed investments for pre-K and Head Start. The D.A.s, senators and other officials at Tuesday's news conference agreed that programs like Nurse-Family Partnerships, Parents as Teachers, Healthy Families America and Early Head Start prevent child abuse and neglect and give more children access to a good education, health care and more. Investments in these and other programs aimed at giving kids a safe, healthy and successful start in life are also supported by Pennsylvania's police chiefs and sheriffs associations as a way to Read more

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Investing in tourism is investing in jobs and our communities

(May 19, 2017)

When your governing philosophy is "government is evil" and "public spending is waste," you often end up cutting off your nose to spite your face. The House Republican budget is a good example. We've seen a steady illustration how the knee-jerk, across-the-board cuts in House Bill 218 would hurt you and your family, stifle jobs and the economy, and make Pennsylvania's budget challenges even worse in the future. The latest example: tourism. Pennsylvania's tourism industry supports more than 310,000 jobs directly and close to half a million in total. Most of these businesses are small, family-owned operations that provide jobs in the community and encourage local economic growth. Unfortunately, the Republican budget slashes the governor's suggested investment of $10 million for tourism marketing in Pennsylvania to just $2.5 million. Every $1 invested in tourism marketing generates nearly $3.50 in state tax revenue, plus more in local revenues. So this is about more than just helping tourism-related businesses -- it's about being able to pay for our schools, public safety, highways and bridges, sewers and water lines, and other services that benefit every Pennsylvania community and family every day. Pennsylvania's competitors -- New York, Virginia and Washington D.C. just to name three -- are outspending us on tourism marketing by 5 to 1, 3 to 1, and 2.5 to 1 respectively. Less than a Read more

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Republican budget puts people and families at risk

(May 9, 2017)

If one of the goals of House Republicans is to make life much more difficult for you and your family, the partisan budget bill they passed on April 4 is a great success. The Republican budget slashes state support for everything from safe child care and healthy parenting, to mental health and substance abuse treatment, to care and support for senior citizens and the homeless. No matter where you live or what your income is, chances are these cuts will impact you and your family at a very personal level and force you into some very difficult choices. Need to find quality care for your children? Republican cuts will eliminate support for childcare services for 10,000 children and increase the waiting list to 19,000 -- the highest in Pennsylvania's history. Many parents would have to choose between staying home and giving up income critical to supporting their family and going to work and potentially placing their children in an unstable or unsafe environment. The cuts would also threaten home-based visiting services that help more than 1,700 young mothers and their babies and toddlers stay healthy and safe. Do you have an aging parent or a son or daughter with a disability? The Republican budget cuts $6 million from home-based and community-based services, meaning your loved ones may no longer be able to receive care or assistance at home. And you may face the increased apprehension and cost of placing them in a nursing Read more

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Getting our youngest Pennsylvanians off to a great start

(May 8, 2017)

Nearly 113,000 pre-school children in Pennsylvania who qualify for high-quality early education aren't receiving the benefits of Pre-K. Pennsylvania should consider that a failure since pre-K plays a crucial role for many children not just in K-12 success but in a successful career and life beyond school. Early education saves taxpayers money by reducing the need for remedial instruction, grade repetition and special education. It also increases graduation rates, college and technical school enrollment, and is even linked to better careers and higher incomes later in life. Yet nearly 70 percent of young children who should be receiving the benefits of a quality early education in Pennsylvania aren't because our state hasn't put a premium on it. That needs to change with this state budget. In November, House Democrats asked Gov. Tom Wolf to increase investments in Pre-K and Head Start in his 2017-18 budget proposal. He responded by including $75 million more for our young children. Unfortunately, House Republicans slashed that amount by $50 million when they passed their budget bill on April 4 -- a bill not one Democrat voted for. House Democrats proudly support early education because the results show that it works. It's a cost-effective way to improve learning and life for thousands of children in Pennsylvania and a way to avoid the more-expensive costs of dealing with the social problems that arise Read more

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Let's pass a budget that doesn't undercut farms and food safety for your family

(May 10, 2017)

A budget bill passed by House Republicans on April 4 could make it much harder for Pennsylvania to keep the food you eat safe and help our state's farmers flourish. Republicans passed the bill with zero input and zero votes from Democrats. A bipartisan Pennsylvania budget would recognize the importance of family farms and agriculture to our state's economy, and the state's obligation to keep the food that is served in our kitchens, restaurants and school cafeterias safe and healthy. The House Republican budget bill doesn't do any of that. Pennsylvania must find ways to reduce its deficit, but the arbitrary cuts in House Bill 218 to things as fundamental to Pennsylvania as farm preservation and production, agriculture jobs and food safety make little sense. The cuts in the Republican budget bill would restrict efforts to market Pennsylvania products through programs such as PA Preferred; jeopardize the state's farmland preservation program; and limit efforts to provide nutritious and healthy food to senior citizens and children through the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and State Food Purchase Program. Republicans also choose in House Bill 218 to cut support for efforts to improve local water quality and provide important education and training programs for farmers and other food producers. These programs boost farming, farm jobs and the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania while conserving and Read more

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We can't have good schools on the cheap

(May 2, 2017)

House Republicans passed a budget bill in April that respects the governor's funding requests for basic and special education, but is missing support for other programs vital to quality schools and successful students. Republican budgets earlier this decade stripped $1 billion in state support for public schools across Pennsylvania and most of those school districts and their students are still trying to recover. Skimping on -- or ignoring completely -- the tools and support services that help students prepare to learn and teachers prepare to teach simply doubles down on the mistakes Republicans made in the past. The House Republican budget bill underfunds Gov. Wolf's request for pre-K and early childhood education increases. Making quality early childhood learning accessible to more children in Pennsylvania ensures they arrive at elementary school ready to learn, increases academic success in later grades, and even boosts career success and income later in life. And, it supports working parents. That's why House Democrats were already encouraging the governor to include the increases in his budget last year. The House Republican budget bill zeroes out Pennsylvania's safe schools initiative. Students who are distracted in school by the threat of violence, harassment or discrimination cannot concentrate in class and often struggle academically. The Republican budget bill fails to support the governor's Read more

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House Democrats will fight for PA veterans

(May 1, 2017)

Republicans brought Pennsylvania to the bad financial place it's in and now they want to take us even lower with the budget bill they passed in early April. Alarmingly, the House Republican budget bill includes cuts that are harmful for many Pennsylvanians. Pennsylvanians that would suffer under the Republican budget include our nearly 900,000 state veterans and National Guard members. According to Pennsylvania's adjutant general, the cuts in the Republican budget bill would cripple operations at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and threaten the department's ability to support programs, services and outreach for our veterans. Under House Republican budget levels, the department could maintain support for veterans and National Guard members only until February of next year. After that, the department would have to lay off up to 65 workers and end many programs and services for veterans and National Guard members. The Republican cuts would also threaten federal funding for veterans in Pennsylvania, since much of the state's funding is required as a match to qualify for federal funding. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is one of Pennsylvania's top 10 employers -- with 2,600 workers and 20,000 National Guard members. It contributes $1.4 billion in economic impact to Pennsylvania. Did Republicans in the House not realize they were voting to cut funding for our veterans, eliminate jobs and damage local economies Read more