With just 2 weeks until the June 30 deadline passage of the state budget, yesterday the House began to debate House Bill 325. This bill would raise revenue by imposing a severance tax on the natural gas removed from the Marcellus Shale, a tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco, and an increase in the tax on cigarettes. After much debate, there were not enough votes for this bill to pass and it was sent back to the House Appropriations Committee.
Governor Rendell has called a budget negotiation meeting for today where he will work with the four caucuses to try to make progress toward completing the state budget.
House Considers Limits to Public-Sector Pensions
Today, the House passed a bill to address the rising cost of Pennsylvania's two large government pension plans.
The bill included an amendment that would:
- Raise the standard retirement age to 65 for both the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) and the State Employees' Retirement System(SERS).
- Raise the time of service for the benefits to vest from 5 to 10 years.
- Reduce the size of pensions for new hires by one-fifth, unless the employees choose to have more money taken out of their paychecks.
- No longer allow retirees to withdraw their own contributions in a lump-sum cash payment upon retirement.
Proposed and Approved Cuts to School District Budgets
While the budget debate continues, school districts continue to have to make tough decisions. Almost one-quarter of districts across the state and over half of the districts in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania have approved or proposed cuts
Some of the cuts are to full-day kindergarten, special education, foreign languages, alternative education, teaching positions, transportation, technology and extra-curricular activities.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign has put together a map of where the cuts are occurring and list showing what the cuts are. Take a minute and see what is going on in your district and if you are unhappy with the results contact your legislators and urge them to take a balanced approach to this years budget.
What More Cuts Would Mean for One Program: ChildLine
ChildLine is a program responsible for answering calls from people who are reporting suspected cases of child abuse and neglect 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Further staff shortages will make it more difficult for citizens to report child abuse allegations. Last year, ChildLine handled over 25,000 reports of suspected child abuse and nearly 4,000 reports were determined to be founded.
Unfortunately for ChildLine, resources are already stretched thin. Since January 2010, between 9 and 13 percent of calls each month have been abandoned because of long hold times due to operations at reduced staff levels. A 10 percent cut would mean 5 fewer staff and 500 additional unanswered calls. If one in six of these reports were founded, this would mean crimes against 83 abused and neglected children would go unreported and uncorrected.
If you believe this program should not sustain further cuts, contact your legislators and urge them to take a balanced approach to this year’s budget for this and all important programs.
Thank you to PCCY for the above information.
Rally for Jobs and Against Budget Cuts
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Budget Coalition is holding a rally for Jobs and Against Budget Cuts
WHEN: Thursday June 17, 11:00 AM
WHERE: Delaware County Courthouse, 201 West Front Street, Media PA
To RSVP for this event, contact Kate Atkins at (215) 563-5848 x 16 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other 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.
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: 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.