PathWays PA Special Budget Alert - September 16, 2009

A possible compromise, but is it the right compromise for Pennsylvania? While we are the only state without a budget and many are in desperate need of state funding, it is critical that we ensure the final budget is one that works for Pennsylvania. If you are looking for a comparison of some of the line items in the three-caucus proposal please see the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's website.

The latest proposal, expected to be at a funding level of $27.9 billion, is said to raise $1.2 billion in what the leaders are calling "recurring revenue" and $2.1 billion in one-time revenue sources. New revenues sources are to come from the combination of a hike on the tax on cigarettes, legalization of casino table games, and higher taxes on businesses. While the proposal increases education funding by $300 million many other programs are facing cuts, like Pre-K Counts, CHIP, and Adult and Family Literacy.

As we wait for a 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.

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…” Even though a compromise budget is beginning to look more likely, it is not too late to contact your legislators and let them know what you think.

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 cannot afford to do without.

Budget Update

With so much action (and inaction) around the PA Budget situation, below is a timeline of the past week.

Thursday, September 10: Potential deal emerges involving three caucuses (Senate Republicans and Democrats, House Democrats, supposedly brought together after private meetings including Sen. Bob Mellow and Sen. Domenic Pileggi). The budget is assumed to be at $27.9 billion and includes revenue from increase to cigarette tax, legalization of table games, and a rollback of capital stock and franchise tax. Governor Rendell states that revenue picture is “too rosy” and threatens to veto. House Republicans also have problems with the plan due to the revenue increases and spending level.

Friday, September 11: House and Senate leaders hold press conference to say they have “an agreement in principal” on the budget. In addition to the cigarette tax, table games, and rollback, they reveal additional revenues will come from the Rainy Day Fund and Health Care Provider Retention Account. Governor Rendell again threatens to veto the bill, saying that the budget is “a billion dollars short.”

Saturday, September 12: Governor Rendell holds a press conference on the budget, where he says he will work towards improvements in the budget deal. However, he continued to attack the revenue projections associated with the deal.

Sunday, September 13: Governor Rendell holds a meeting at the Governor’s Mansion with state leaders. Following the meeting, Sen. Domenic Pileggi indicates that the budget might address some of the Governor’s concerns. House Speaker Keith McCall said he was “optimistic” about the meeting.

Monday, September 14: Governor Rendell continues to speak against the proposed budget in a news conference, leading reporters to note that it had become more likely that if the budget passed, it would be over his veto. However, the Governor also said he would not oppose any plans to override his veto on the budget. A planned Budget Conference Committee meeting was postponed until later on September 14 and then postponed indefinitely.

Tuesday, September 15: Senator Pileggi notes he is “more optimistic” about the budget in comparison to September 14. The Associated Press reported that “most legislators” had not been briefed on the deal. A spokesman for Governor Rendell reported that the Governor might be moving closer to a deal.

Wednesday, September 16: The Conference Committee is scheduled to meet today. The members of this Committee include Senators Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), Jake Corman (R-Centre) and Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), and Representatives Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), Todd Eachus (D-Luzerne), and Sam Smith (R-Jefferson).

Budget Update: Philadelphia

On Friday, the House voted on an amended version of a bill that would allow Philadelphia to increase the sales tax and delay payments to city's pension fund. The House amended the Senate bill in regards to the provision allowing the Pennsylvania Employee Retirement Commission to take over pensions accounts that are underfunded. The House amendment allows municipalities with underfunded pension systems to delay their "minimum municipal obligation" payments to the systems for two years, to ease their budget problems.

The bill now heads back to the Senate where they will have to vote on the amended version.

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.

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.
  • A client of PathWays PA is working with our staff to get emergency assistance for her energy bill. She runs a child care center out of her home but because of the budget crisis, she is not being paid what she is owed by the state. Without the funding, she has fallen behind on her energy bill payments. While her service was scheduled to be shut off last Wednesday, our staff was able to provide her with assistance and able to extend her shut off notice.
  • Northampton Community College made cuts to their adult literacy program. Due to uncertainty over state money, the college has laid off 13 full and 11 part-time employees, most of them in adult literacy programs.
  • School are owed millions of dollars from the state, and without that funding many districts are examining borrowing options while others are considering deeper cuts and potential closures.
  • Due to the budget impasse, some counties are cutting para-transit transportation to doctor’s and other non-emergency appointments previously provided for those with disabilities. For one para-transit provider in York and Adams counties, 300 to 500 people will be affected by this cut daily.
  • School districts are awaiting word of how much their funding may be cut. For many schools, programs that may have their funding cut are already in place for the current school year. A final budget may mean difficult decisions effecting children and families.

Help Save Adult Literacy!

The latest figure proposed for adult literacy is $17,187,000. This number represents a 25.7 percent reduction in funding from last year.
This cut in funding will eliminate classes and programs in all of our communities. Please contact your legislator and ask them increase this line item as they negotiate final revenue and expense line items.

Contact your legislators today!

Rework Career Fair

While the budget is ongoing, many in Pennsylvania are struggling to find jobs that pay a self-sufficient wage. This year at the Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, is sponsoring a Rework Career Fair.

WHEN: September 17 2:30-5:30
WHERE: Pennsylvania Convention Center Exhibit Hall

This event is free to the public. At it, you will find the tools and training necessary to strengthen skill sets, land promotions and secure higher salaries.

Below is a schedule of some of the Career Fair events:

3:00 — 3 Steps to a Powerful Lasting Impression
3:20 — Secrets of a Hiring Manger
3:40 — Negotiating from Strength – Communication Skills for Better Business
4:00 — Pro-Networking™: How to be Proactive, Productive and Profitable

There will also be an opportunity for individuals to have their resumes critiqued and some may be paired with a mentor. Registered Conference attendees may sign up for a 20-minute mentoring session beginning at 7:30 am in the Exhibit Hall Lounge. There are a limited number of slots, so register early!

The Career Fair will also feature local and national employers and recruiters with current employment opportunities in Pennsylvania. See a list of Career Fair exhibitors. For information on exhibiting at the ReWork Career Fair, please email or call 212-290-2600.

To see a full Conference agenda please click here.

To register for the Conference you can visit the Registration page.


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