Wednesday, September 2, 2009

PathWays PA Special Budget Alert - September 2, 2009

As the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter, Pennsylvania is now the only state without a complete budget. There has been some willingness from groups to bring their proposals to more of a middle ground with discussions of some recurring revenue to possibly be included in the final bill. In the meantime, preschools and other pre-kindergarten programs are shutting their doors, along with child care centers and many other state programs.

While state workers have begun receiving paychecks and some essential services have received funds, many institutions and organizations that rely on state funding continue to go without until the remainder of the budget is passed. These include schools, hospitals, and non-profit organizations that will have to make tough decisions that could lead to layoffs, service cuts, or closing down their businesses because funding is tied up until the budget is passed.

If you work for one of these organizations or if the services you rely on have been cut, please tell your story! Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or tell your story to PathWays PA. We will share these stories on our blog and in our e-newsletters.

If you are upset about the budget proposals, which include cuts ranging from education to hospitals to the elimination of the Industry Partnership program, please tell your legislators how you would finish this sentence: “If the choice is between reducing/eliminating spending on hospitals, burn units, Industry Partnerships, and childcare, or increasing revenues, I would support…”

During this recession, some budget cuts are inevitable. But too many cuts will lead to long-term impacts on our families, our health, and our economy at a time when we can’t afford to do without. We need a budget now, but we also need one that supports our families.

For more information throughout the week on the budget and other issues, be sure to check out the PathWays PA Policy Blog.


Budget Update


After 3 weeks of suspended talks, yesterday the House/Senate Conference Committee resumed meeting to negotiate the state budget proposals. There was a brief discussion on a House proposal, which is currently at $28.1 billion, and another House proposal put forth by Representative Sam Smith, which puts spending at $27.5 billion.
The Committee then adjourned with plans for their staff to prepare line-item comparisons of the two proposals, which will be the basis for the next meeting. However, when the next meeting will take place is not clear.


Budget Update: Philadelphia

The Senate approved a bill that would allow Philadelphia to increase the sales tax and delay payments to city's pension fund. According to the Mayor, these measures are necessary to keep the city from having to implement severe cuts that include 3,000 layoffs, the closing of libraries and recreation centers, and limiting trash collection to twice a month. The bill coming out of the Senate was amended and will now go to the House for a vote, scheduled to take place on September 8th.


Action Alerts


Budget Rallies Throughout the State

Individuals and organizations are coming together throughout Pennsylvania to remind legislators of the need to quickly pass a responsible budget that fully funds essential programs. If you are interested in taking part or attending any of these rallies, please visit the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s website.


Rally to Support the LIHEAP Program

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps seniors and low-income families pay their heating bills. Unfortunately, this program, while federally funded, is one of many that may be cut. Some of the cuts proposed include reducing cash grants from $300 to $100 and crisis grants from $800 to $300. In addition, the time to apply will be shortened.
If these cuts are passed:
  • Thousands of families will not have the money they need to get their utility service re connected before the start of the heating system.
  • Many of the newly unemployed, not familiar with the LIHEAP program will miss the early deadlines and shortened application period and not receive the help to which they are entitled.
  • The reduced benefits will leave tens of thousands of families without enough help, leading to spring shut offs.
Advocates held a rally today from 1:00 to 2:00 at the Capitol Rotunda to urge support for this important program.


Local Impact of Working Without a State Budget

While the “stop-gap” budget has allowed state workers and some services to be paid, many other departments, organizations, and agencies are still without any funding. Below are some local examples of how the delay and some of the budget proposals truly impact different parts of the state.
  • Cambria County is getting closer to layoffs or shortened work weeks for some human services employees due to the budget impasse. The stalemate has halted the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars of state money to counties across Pennsylvania.
  • The City of Philadelphia had to borrow $275 million from JP Morgan Chase to pay its bills.
  • In Pottstown, school administrators are planning for the possible mid-year closure of one school in preparation for a proposed state budget which would cut state aid funds to Pottstown by as much as $2.2 million.
  • Rob Oliver is a quadriplegic after a body-boarding accident. Without the state-subsidized home care that helps him get out of bed, shower and hold a 40-hour-a-week job to support his wife and kids, he says he would end up in a nursing home.
  • The state helps fund child care works programs, like Nana's House Child Care Center in Towanda. Since the impasse 25 percent of child care centers have been forced to layoff staff. The owner of Nana's Child Care Center has already had to lay off five employees.

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