Wednesday, September 30, 2009

PathWays PA Special Budget Alert - September 30, 2009

Sunday, October 3rd (which is over three months after the constitutionally mandated deadline) is the new deadline set by Governor Rendell for a final budget. The House and Senate are scheduled to resume voting sessions today and they plan to keep working until there is a budget, but many call the Sunday deadline the best-case scenario.

While there may be an agreement and a new tentative deadline, until a budget is passed and signed, counties, non-profits, schools, hospitals, and many other organizations will continue to struggle to make ends meet without funding.

As we wait for a signed budget, preschools and other pre-kindergarten programs continue to shut their doors, along with child care centers and many other state programs. 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.

While there is much hope that we have reached the end of the budget impasse, there are no guarantees that this is the final version. Please continue to contact legislators and remind them of the programs that are important to Pennsylvania’s families, like the Industry Partnerships, Child Care Works, and Adult Education, and the need for funds to be distributed to service providers as quickly as possible after a budget is passed.


Budget Update

On September 18th, Governor Ed Rendell and the leaders of three legislative caucuses announced a $27.95 billion budget agreement. The Governor announced his support of a modified version of the "three-caucus" budget proposal.

Almost two weeks later, negotiations continue on the budget agreement. There continues to be concern on a number of issues, including the removal of a tax exemption for cultural events and the leasing of state forest land.

The House of Representatives will return to session today, when members plan to consider legislation that would enact a severance tax on natural gas production and a levy on cigars and smokeless tobacco. These revenue options were not in the state budget agreement announced by Governor Rendell and legislative leaders on September 18, however, the House is voting on the legislation after several members voiced concerns about the budget agreement.

While the budget continues to be worked on, the Department of Revenue is processing invoices so it can begin sending out payments for things like child care reimbursements, basic and special education funding, and CHIP as quickly as possible. The goal is to have priority line items receive payment within four to six days after the budget is signed and all other payments should be received in ten business days after the budget is enacted.

Please continue to visit our PathWays PA Policy Blog for updates on the budget and other important policy issues.


Local Impact of Working Without a State Budget

While an agreement has been reached and a new tentative deadline set, many departments, organizations, and agencies are still without any funding. Below are some local examples of how the delay and the budget agreement continue to affect different parts of the state.
  • Local child care providers have not been paid for months, forcing some to take out loans, cut hours, and even close their doors. The ripple effect is that low-income working parents who rely on state assistance to pay for child care are having to cut back their hours at work or quit all together.
  • Without funding, no Head Start classrooms in Lackawanna, Wayne, Pike and Susquehanna counties have opened this year, effecting 238 three and four year olds. For the 180 students in Pre-K Counts, their continued enrollment depends on when and how much funding they will receive.
  • In Lawrence County, the courthouse will be closed during the Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks in order to save money. Employees will take those holidays unpaid, and anyone not effected by the holiday furloughs, those at the county’s jail and 911 center, are being asked to take a 3 percent pay cut.
  • The Hamburg School District learned that they will likely receive less funding than they had anticipated. Having already started the school year with those funds prepared to be spent, the School Board needs to revise their plans and make difficult decisions and potential cuts.
  • Industry Partnerships cannot offer classes to provide training and upward mobility.


Action Alerts

Urge Your Representative to Support the Tax on Natural Gas, Smokeless Tobacco, and Cigars

The House of Representatives returns to session today, with plans to take up legislation that would enact a severance tax on natural gas production and a levy on cigars and smokeless tobacco.

A natural gas severance tax would not only provide needed revenue for the state, it also would ensure that state and local governments would be reimbursed for infrastructure, environmental, and social costs associated with increased drilling activity.

A tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco would help eliminate the price differential between cigarettes, which are subject to tax, and other harmful products which escape taxation. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation without a tax on other tobacco products.

Call your House Representatives today to ask them to support a natural gas severance tax and levies on cigars and smokeless tobacco.


Continue to Urge Your Legislators to Support Critical Programs

While an agreement has been reached, the budget will not be final until it is passed and signed. Until that time, legislators continue to work on the amount of funding programs and services will receive. Please continue to contact legislators and remind them of the programs that are important to Pennsylvania’s families and ask them to fast-track funding to service providers so they can keep helping those in need.


Industry Partnerships

Take Action! Industry Partnerships are consortiums that allow employers to improve and expand their workforce by bringing together companies committed to the development of their workforce.
  • This program provides workers with access to training that gives them the skills necessary to maintain jobs and obtain employment with sufficient wages so workers can adequately support their families.
  • In Pennsylvania, more than 6,300 businesses are involved with more than 70 Industry Partnerships across the state. More than 70,000 workers have been trained since 2005.
  • On average, those workers have seen their wages rise by 6.62 percent within the first year after receiving the training.
  • Read more about how the Industry Partnership program is helping in one county.
  • Please see two recent posts on the PathWays PA Policy Blog - Recent Op Ed: Killing Industry Partnership workforce training would be bad for Pa. and Another Op-Ed in Support of Industry Partnerships.

CHIP – Cover All Kids

Take Action! During the past three years, CHIP has provided comprehensive health insurance coverage for thousands of children throughout Pennsylvania who would not have been eligible without the Cover All Kids program.
  • However, current budget proposals rescind this CHIP provision, which could result in up to 12,000 kids being cut from the program.
  • Even during an economic crisis, it is important to pay attention to the long-term effects of short-term cuts.
  • A recent report from Rice University puts the cost of health insurance through age 18 at $7,451, while the benefits equate to as much as $15,000.

Child Care Work Subsidies

Take Action! The Child Care Works Subsidies allow parents to afford to work by assisting them with the expense of child care.
  • For many parents the cost of child care may be more than they bring home in a paycheck.
  • Currently in Pennsylvania, over 16,000 are eligible for the child care subsidies but are currently on the waitlist, where some families remain for months.
  • In the meantime, they must pay more than they can afford for child care, provide childcare through an unreliable patchwork of friends, family, or substandard facilities, or risk losing their jobs at a time when employment is hard to find.
  • For more information please see a new report from PCCY, “Child Care Works, A Program with a Growing Need

Adult Education and Family Literacy

Take Action! Adult education and family literacy are especially important during this recession to ensure that families have the opportunity to gain the education they need to be or become self-sufficient. Please contact your representatives today to let them know the importance of this program!
  • These services have seen an increased demand in recent months.
  • According to a new report from the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board, over 202,000 adults in Philadelphia do not have a high school diploma, and 40 percent of Pennsylvania adults struggle with basic literacy skills.
  • Overlooked and Undercounted: Struggling to Make Ends Meet in Pennsylvania shows that 40.9 percent of all Pennsylvania households have a high school education or less, and of those households, 49% of those with less than a high school education earn less than the Self-Sufficiency Standard


We're looking for the top 5 answers on how to get the budget passed sooner. Share your ideas in the comment section below.

1 comment:

  1. Here's my solution: PA Budget Survivor

    1 representative is voted out of their job each day the budget isn't passed. The state could sell the television rights (increasing revenue). Eventually they'll either pass a budget so they don't lose their job or we'll have a balanced budget because we won't have any lawmakers to pay!

    ReplyDelete