This publication is your
opportunity to receive regular updates on
the work and the issues that I have been
involved with, both in Harrisburg and
throughout our community.
Please visit my website,
where you will find a comprehensive overview
of our work, various phone numbers and
contact information to assist you in solving
problems, opportunities to volunteer and
assist us in our programs and opportunities
to give your feedback.
A FINAL CALL TO ACTION
|Senator Hughes talks to the press on
Friday, June 24th about the growing budget surplus.
Daily, I have been vocal about the significant surplus our state has. I have spoken on the Senate Floor, in Appropriation Committee meetings, to the press, posted on Facebook and tweeted about us nearing a $700 million year end budget surplus.
Yet, amendments to restore funding to our state-related universities failed to pass in the Appropriations Committee. Furthermore, the state is close to agreeing to a budget that lays off teachers and raises local property taxes in the majority of Pennsylvania school districts.
Although this is disheartening, we will continue to push forward, with a message and a policy agenda that puts Pennsylvanias people first, and continue to fight for education investments, job creation programs, support for health care services and a fair tax policy.
THE GROWING CURRENT YEAR SURPLUS
When Governor Corbett unveiled his own budget in March, it was already clear that our budget outlook was much brighter than the $4 billion shortfall we once feared. An improving state economy and increased state revenues were emerging to replace a substantial amount of the lost federal stimulus dollars. While the Governors proposed budget acknowledged a growing state economy, it continued to significantly underestimate that strength. Governor Corbett predicted a modest revenue surplus of only $78 million. We said the surplus would be $300-$400 million. Now, four months later, it is clear that revenue surplus will likely be nearly $700 million by years end.
THE BUDGET PROCESS
The Budget is purely a Republican deal, with no meeting or negotiations where the Democrats have been involved. The Republicans control both the Senate and the House. We have had hours of public hearings, months of conversation, town meetings, conference calls, dialogue, email and letters regarding this budget. Yet, the last four weeks, the Majority met among themselves and crafted their own budget. They have closed their doors to negotiations with any Democrats. Even after months of hearings and a long budget process, they closed rank.
A BUDGET UNVEILED
On Monday, June 27, three days before the June 30th budget deadline, the Republicans finally unveiled their budget. The budget they proposed is very similar to the budget proposal provided by the Governor on March 8.
Here are some of the items in their budget (HB 1485):
- Basic education cut by $900 million hitting poorer school districts hardest and eliminating targeted programs for early learning initiatives and struggling students.
- Higher education funding reduction of $230 million 19% cuts for state-related institutions, 18% cuts for state system schools and 10% for community colleges.
- Programs that were completely eliminated include: the Education Assistance Program (tutoring), School Improvement Grants (six districts for their persistently low achieving schools), Dual Enrollment, Science Its Elementary, Reimbursement of Charter Schools and High School Reform.
Health and Human Services:
- Human Services Development Fund,which provides flexible funding for a wide range of services to all 67 counties is cut by $8.5 million.
- Hospital, Health Care and Long Term Care Cuts of $400 million.
- Reduction by 25% of funding for OB/Neonatal, Burn Centers, Critical Access Hospitals, Trauma Centers.
- The GOP budget further cuts funding to the County Child Welfare Services by $23.5 million, further strapping the counties as they try to provide services to the most vulnerable children in Pennsylvania.
Job Creation and Economic Development:
- $118 million cuts in the Department of Community and Economic Development
80% cut in Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP)
Elimination of Housing Support Programs.
|Senator Hughes reacts to the Republicans unveiling their budget on Monday, June 27.
CONTINUING THE FIGHT
As we wind down the final week of budget negotiations, I want to let you know that our fight continues as strong as it began months ago. In the Appropriations Committee meeting on Monday, the following amendments were offered to House Bill 1485 the budget bill.
I introduced an education amendment, increasing the education spend by $289 million. Senator Fontana introduced the PA WORKS amendment providing $91.497 million in restorations for various economic development and job training programs. Senator Kitchen introduced the Uncompensated Care amendment, which would have restored $53 million in cuts made to Uncompensated Care, Temple Access to Care, North Philadelphia Health System and Mercy Philadelphia and Pittsburgh payments. Senator Washington introduced the Health and Human Services amendment that would have restored $20 million in health and human services programs. Finally, Senator Farnese introduced the Arts and Tourism amendment which would have restored $20 million to arts and tourism programs, as well as amendments for the funding of AdultBasic.
All Democrats stood together in voting for these amendments in the Appropriations Committee meeting that ran two hours long as we debated with the Senate Republicans about how important funding education, job creatin and health care is and how irresponsible of anyone to allow this budget to pass when it gives big business and the Marcellus Shale industry a pass. All of the amendments offered in the meeting failed falling short by a party line vote for each amendment.
The fight is not over, even though it is in its last days. You have my continued commitment to always push our agenda of putting people first, and do our best in making decisions that are fair and appropriate to the hard working citizens of Pennsylvania.
Offices of State
Senator Vincent Hughes