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.
FINAL PRIORITIES PUSH – PUT THE PEOPLE FIRST!
On Tuesday, June 8, I joined my Senate Democratic colleagues in the Main Rotunda of the Capitol to address the budget as we head into the final few weeks of the budget process. We outlined again the very important points that we have been making for months now in order to prevent Pennsylvania’s budget from being balanced on the backs of working class families and children.
COUNT THE MONEY CORRECTLY
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 Governor’s 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.
Now, three months later, it is clear that revenue surplus will likely exceed $600 million by year’s end. It’s time to take a step back and reassess what a responsible budget plan should really include.
Somehow, the Governor and House Republicans are okay sitting on a revenue surplus as they reduce and eliminate vital programs and services that assist our working families, our children and those who don’t have the ability to help themselves.
No one will argue that we need to be responsible and appropriate with the surplus, but we cannot ignore the reality of what some of that surplus can do to help people in Pennsylvania right now.
SAVINGS AND SOLUTIONS
Senate Democrats continue to promote a plan that specifically outlines where cost-efficiencies can be found, as well as where the commonwealth can generate significant revenue in order to lessen the extent of budget cuts to balance the budget.
The Senate Democratic plan includes savings, revenues and efficiencies of $1.14 billion:
- $750 million in savings from fiscal responsibility initiatives in Public Welfare, Corrections, procurement and maximizing revenues;
- $290 million in savings generated through a tax fairness plan that includes a Marcellus Shale tax levy but eliminates other tax breaks suggested by the governor;
- $100 million from higher state stores revenues.
By using budget savings ideas promoted by Senate Democrats, in conjunction with the revenue surplus, we hope to restore key funding for important programs:
- Accountability Block Grant and Charter School reimbursement programs for local school districts;
- Higher Education funding for state-related and state system schools;
- Hospital reimbursements for uncompensated care, critical care access and other forms of specialty care;
- Essential county and municipal assistance programs including the Human Service Development Fund, Housing and Redevelopment Assistance and Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program; and
- Job creation and training programs essential to keep growing our economy.
MAKE MARCELLUS SHALE CONTRIBUTE
Both Governor Corbett’s and the House GOP’s spending plans do not share pain evenly. They do not include revenues that would be gained from eliminating tax breaks for the largest corporations in the state; nor do they book revenue from responsible taxes imposed on Marcellus Shale drillers that could be used for environmental protection and infrastructure improvements.
Marcellus Shale must be a part of the budget conversation. While I am pleased to see Senate Republican leaders understanding the need to have a shale fee, both House Republicans and Governor need to become engaged in this topic. Furthermore, the people of Pennsylvania have resoundingly spoken – they want to be sure the Marcellus Shale drillers share the sacrifice of this budget and be made to pay their share.
RACE TO THE FINISH LINE
While my colleagues and I work with our Senate Republican colleagues in these final weeks to address the many shortcomings of the House GOP and Corbett budget plans, I will urge them to count the money correctly and put the people first. We can work to develop a realistic spending plan that meets the needs of Pennsylvania.
Offices of State
Senator Vincent Hughes