Wednesday, March 31, 2010

PathWays PA Special Budget E-Alert - March 31, 2010

State Budget

Last week the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a budget bill that reflects the Governor's budget proposal. The bill passed the House by a vote of 107-89. The bill now goes on to the Senate, which is expected to reconvene on April 12.

The House bill did not include any action on new revenue proposals, including the Stimulus Transition Fund, that were included in the Governor’s budget. If no new revenue is raised this year, the state will have a deficit of $2.4 billion in 2011-12 and $12.8 billion by 2014-15. The House is expected to work on the revenue proposals in other legislation.

What is the Stimulus Transition Fund?

The purpose of the fund is to cover the budget hole that will exist after the federal stimulus funds expire in June 2011. In the coming fiscal year, the state is expecting to receive $2.7 billion in federal stimulus dollars. This money will fund health care, corrections, and education. In the following fiscal year (FY2011-2012), the state is not expected to have access to the same funding. The Stimulus Transition fund would replace the decreased federal funding for these programs.

The fund will be paid for through a number of new revenue measures. These include:
  • Modernizing the sales tax by eliminating exemptions and reducing the overall tax rate.
  • Eliminating the sales tax vendor discount for firms filing timely returns.
  • Closing corporate tax loopholes by enacting Combined Reporting.
  • Enacting an excise tax on smokeless tobacco and cigars.
  • Levying a severance tax on the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale that underlies much of the Commonwealth.
Please see the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s summary of the Fund for more detail about the new revenue measures.


Philadelphia Budget 

While City Council is working on the city budget, another issue they will have to face is expiring union contracts. An estimated 60 percent of the city’s $3.9 billion general fund budget is spent on salaries, benefits and overtime for city workers, most of who are in unions.

Three union contracts still need to be finalized before the May 31st budget deadline, although the city did reach new contract terms with the police union through binding arbitration. The arbitrator’s ruling provides raises, maintains current health benefits, and loosens residency requirements.

To learn more about the city budget join Catherine Lucy of the Philadelphia Daily News for an online chat at noon today.

A Special Census Did You Know...

That the information the census collects helps to determine how to spend more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year on infrastructure and services?

Please fill out your Census form today.


April 1 – National Census Day 

Have you filled out your Census form yet? National Census Day is tomorrow, April 1, 2010. Please take a few minutes to fill out the Census form and send it back by this date.

It is important to be counted in the U.S. Census as it helps determine federal funding for critical services in Pennsylvania. This is a simple way you can help drive much needed federal funding to the women and families of Pennsylvania. If you need help with your form, you can call the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Center (they can take calls in 6 languages + TDD calls) or visit a Questionnaire Assistance Center or Be Counted site.


Important Programs and Action Steps:

While the state budget is very tight this year, it is crucial for legislators to hear from their constituents about programs that cannot and should not see more cuts this year. Even programs that are not undergoing large cuts need to be advocated for to ensure that changes are not made to their funding during the budget debates. Below we have highlighted just a few of those programs:

Adult Education and Family Literacy Programs: The greatest predictor of a child's future academic success is the literacy level of the child's mother. Adult education and family literacy programs are especially important during this recession to ensure that families have the opportunity to gain the education they need to become self-sufficient. If you or your clients have been impacted by the need for literacy, please contact your state legislators today and let them know.

Industry Partnerships: Workers who participate in the Industry Partnership program have seen an average 6.62% increase in their wages within the first year after training.
HB 2230, currently in the House Committee on Labor Relations, will institutionalize Industry Partnerships to ensure that this important program remains in Pennsylvania for years to come. If you or your clients have benefited from Industry Partnerships, please let your legislators know by emailing or calling their offices.

State Supplemental Program: Help restore cuts to the State Supplemental Payments for Pennsylvania’s elderly, disabled, and blind. As a result of the 2009-2010 budget, the state supplement has now been cut each month by $5 for a single person and $10 for a couple. If you believe the payments are important. please contact your state legislators and urge them to find ways to restore this cut.

adultBasic: Over 350,000 people are on the waiting list for adultBasic. While those on the waiting list can pay full price for the program until they can access the program, but the cost to buy in has increased 80 percent. Meanwhile, coverage under the Governor’s 2010-2011 budget will not expand beyond 50,000 people. If you or your clients believe that when 12 percent of adults in Pennsylvania are without health care, programs that assist them are essential and need to be expanded, please contact your state legislators today and let them know.

Child Care Subsidy: At least 16,000 families are on the waiting list to receive the child care subsidy. The subsidy allows parents to afford to work by assisting them with the expense of child care. If you or your clients have been impacted by the need for child care, please contact your state legislators today and let them know.

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